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Genetic Effects of Radioactive Contamination by Uranium


Genetic Effects of Radioactive Contamination of Territories of Uranium-Mining Regions for Natural Population of Plants, Animals and Human

Tech Area / Field

  • BIO-RAD/Radiobiology/Biotechnology
  • BIO-CGM/Cytology, Genetics and Molecular Biology/Biotechnology
  • BIO-SFS/Biosafety and BioSecurity/Biotechnology
  • ENV-EHS/Environmental Health and Safety/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Astana Medical University, Kazakstan, Astana


  • Hiroshima University / Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine, Japan, Hiroshima

Project summary

Project goal. Study of genetic effects induced by radioactive environmental pollution in natural populations of plants and animals is planned. Genetic risk of human radioactive irradiation will be assessed and principles of organization and application of long-term genetic monitoring on a territory of uranium-mining regions will be developed. To achieve defined goal of the project, following task solutions are foreseen: a) assessment of radiation environment in a habitat of natural populations of organisms and determination of radionuclide content (U-238, Th-232, Ra-226, Rn-220, Po-210, Pb-210), heavy metals (Zn, Ni, Mo, As, Pb, Cd etc.) in biologic chain: soil-water-plant-animal-foodstuffs; b) assessment of ecological state of biocenosis, determination species persity of plants and animals, selection of bio-indicators; c) study of cytogenetic, genetic and molecular-genetic effects after chronic exposure to ionizing radiation of different test-objects; d) cytogenetic examination of workers (group A and B) at Stepnogorsk Mining Metallurgic Plant belonging to JSC “NAC “Kazatomprom” and persons living in the area under influence of uranium-mining industry; e) development of the main organization principles of complex genetic monitoring on uranium-mining regions.

Level of research for today. Strategy of study concerning ecology effects conditioned by ionizing radiation includes as one main element an analysis of genetic processes in natural populations and ecosystems. Moreover assessment of genetic effects conditioned by environmental radioactive pollutions in flora, fauna and human is a difficult problem. The latter comprises both issues of molecular mechanisms of genetic processes, radiation mutagenesis, reparations in cells and organisms, and issues of mutational variability, accumulation and elimination of induced mutations in populations of different species. Therefore forecast of genetic effects caused by ionizing radiation on natural ecosystems is possible only provided that required and authentic information about mechanisms of radiation effects on different levels of life organization is available. Relaying on results obtained in animal and plant studies one can indirectly assess risk of defects appearing in human. Study of population’s responses on chronic ionizing radiation in natural habitat also attracts undoubted interest in sphere of ecological normalization of radioactive waste content in external environment. Such kind of standards, along with radiation and hygienic indexes, are important in regulations of usage of nuclear power engineering in peaceful purposes.

Radiological environment on the territory of uranium-mining regions of Kazakhstan have been studied insufficiently up to now. Comprehensive scientific studies on assessment of genetic effects caused by radioactive contaminations have not been carried out for natural populations and cenoses.

Meaning of present project for the progress in this sphere. In case of fortunate completion of the project a precedent proofing peculiarity of genetic hazard originated from anthropogenic pollution on uranium-mining areas in Northern Kazakhstan for natural populations of organisms will be established, and designing of basic principles for organization of complex genetic monitoring on uranium-mining regions will be carried out.

Competence of the participants of the project in this sphere. Scientists of JSC “Medical University Astana” interested in the project have rich operational experience in the field of project theme, and this is confirmed by available publications and international conference presentations (listed in the end of the present proposal) and some of them have academic credentials (11 doctors and 5 candidates of science in biology and medicine fields). Part of the applied persons to this project took part in international projects with scientists from Germany, France, Czech Republic, Slovakia: a) Radiobiological assessment of long-termed effects in Semipalatinsk test site. Nato – Semipalatinsk 1995/1996. Forschungszentrum Julich. – 1996. – 115p.; b) Long-termed effects of chronically exposed rodents to internal and external irradiation in Semipalatinsk Nuclear test site. Project 1994-1996 INTAS; c) Biological effects of Semipalatinsk test site and radioactive contamination of environment. Project K-054 1997-1999 ISTC. Availability of high-skilled stuff and modern instrumental and methodical base will enable us to solve objectives in the network of this project.

Expected results and their application. Following results will be obtained in the course of project execution: a) for the first time an objective assessment of radiation environment on the habitats of natural populations of organisms will be presented by means of equivalent gamma radiation dose analysis, and determination of content and distribution of radionuclides in soil, sediments, water, plants, animals and food products, dose load on biо-objects, and patterns of radionuclides and heavy metals accumulation in plant and animal organisms will be determined; b) assessment of present plant cover state and animal species persity will be done, a species list of vascular plants, cadastre of vertebrate animal species will be made, and peculiarities of habitation of animal populations in radioactive polluted biogeocenosis will be revealed; c) with the help of modern cytogenetic, biochemical and molecular genetic methods will allow revealing radiation induced abnormalities in somatic and generative animal cells such as: rodents (Allactaga major Kerr., Allactaga saltator Ewersm., Citellus erythrogenus Brandt., Apademus agrarius Pall), reptiles (Eremias argata Pall., Lacerta agilis Linn), insects (Diptera, Chironomidae), fish (Rutilus rutilus lacustris Pall., Perca fluvitilis L., Carassius auratus L.), amphibians (Ranatemoparia L., Rana ridibunda Pall., Rana arvalis Pall.) will be revealed; d) dependence between the level of mutational variability (occurrence and range of structural mutations in rootlet meristematic cells, and chlorophyll mutations) and the level of radioactive pollution and patterns of radionuclides’ content in different plant species such as (Elymys junceus F., Fectuca sulcata F., Agropyron eristatum B., Hordeum Bogdan W., Artemisia L. Scirpus lacustris L. etc.) growing on the territory under investigation will be clarified; e) determination of cytogenetic damage level in blood lymphocytes of persons being permanently in touch with ionizing radiation sources, and persons living in zone of uranium-ore industry influence will be carried out; risk groups for health improvement will be revealed; specific conclusions and prediction of possible genetic effects induced by radioactive environmental pollution in natural populations and cenoses will be made; f) Basic principles for organization and methodology of long term genetic monitoring on uranium-mining regions will be designed

Results obtained in the course of project execution will be applied for: a) designing of sufficiently simple and accessible methods of biologic indication and dosimetry of radiation exposure; b) substantiation of maximum permissible radiation dose for nature populations of plants and animals, as well for humans in working conditions and in case of emergency; c) designing of arrangements for radioactivity reduction in plants and livestock products

International data exchange will be beneficial to join efforts of several international research teams involved in study of similar radioactive pollution effects in their motherlands.

Appropriation of the project to the aims of ISTC. As far as specialists of this project possess knowledge in the sphere of weapons of mass destruction and the project itself has only peaceful trend this project is quite in accord with the aims of ITSC. Also, compliance with these aims is achieved owing to the general involvement of scientists from organization-participants to the world scientific society by presenting project data at international conferences and seminars.

Data about volume of the works. Following main works will be carried out in the framework of this project: a) radioecological assessment on a territoried under uranium-mining and uranium-processing enterprises’ influence; sampling of environmental objects: soil (500 samples), water (200 samples), plants (150 samples) and biotests (150 samples); b) assessment of genetic effects induced by anthropogenic factors in natural populations of animals and plants (genetic analysis of chromosomes – 5000 preparations); c) genetic analysis of human chromosomes – 2500 preparations; d) presentation of project data to international scientific society.

Role of foreign collaborators. A staff of scientific group headed by professor Hoshi from Department of Radiation Biophysics Division of Biomedical Informatics of Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine in Hiroshima University in Japan expresses willingness to be in the capacity of foreign collaborators of the project. Group of professor Hoshi explore radiation environment in habitats of natural populations of organisms on territories affected by past nuclear explosions in Japan and Kazakhstan. According to the letter from professor Hoshi dated by 24 August 2009 his group displays interest to the topic of the project and is ready for collaboration in the framework of the project. Professor Hoshi together with the project manager will coordinate all activities during project execution, he will take part in preparing of reports, and joint publications and will participate in optimization of project resources.

Technical approaches and methodology. Principal novelty in analysis of genetic effects related to radiation exposure will be application of monitoring system including different test systems in the form of a group of organisms from insects to humans and covering different levels from molecular-genetic to population. Actions of all services supporting main principals of arrangements and methodology for long term genetic monitoring in uranium mining regions will be planned. Radioactive environmental pollution, gives rise to many problems of ecology medicine and social character etc. Solution of majority of them depends in the first place on correct assessment of the level of radiation hazard for populations of organisms and humans as they chanced being caught in situation of forced residence or employment on radioactive contaminated territory. As an appraisal of this hazard can be objective information about radioactive pollution of objects in the environment and value of a dose being received by organisms. For realization of this project following methods of research will be used: radiometric, radiospectrometric, radiochemical, cytogenetic, molecular genetic, geobotanic, and zoological and method of bio-monitoring.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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