Ever since the atomic bombs dropped on Japan created the world's largest experiment on the effects of radiation on humans, people have puzzled over not only just what these effects could be, but also if they could be passed on to the children of those exposed. In the past, researchers have shown in mice that some effects -- in the form of genetic mutations -- can indeed be passed to offspring and cause health effects.
Now Lynn Wiley and her colleagues at the University of California, Davis, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have used a very sensitive model they developed to demonstrate that if a male mouse is exposed to radiation, he may pass on detrimental effects not only to his children, but also to his grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren.
Wiley will present her work at a conference Nov. 8-9 in Japan called "Bioregulation of Radiation Response: Genetic Instability." Most of the information she presented was published this summer in the journals Radiation Research and Mutation Research.
Wiley says that her "environmentally relevant" assay -- using amounts of radiation that compares to what a person might receive during radiation therapy for cancer -- confirms what the Japanese have been saying for years; that the effects of radiation can be passed down through generations. Her results are controversial but she says, "so far, no one's been able to knock it down ... Every molecule of that paper has been turned over, and it hasn't been shot down."
"There is a big difference between transmission, which means passing
on effects to the children, and heritability, which means passing it on
to all future generations," said Wiley, a professor of medicine with
the campus Institute of Toxicology and Environmental Health. "Heritability
Contact: Mitzi Baker
University of California - Davis