Chernobyl's mutant wolves resist cancer

Wolves mutated by radiation in the Chernobyl exclusion zone are reportedly resistant to cancer

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Chernobyl's mutant wolves resist cancer
© Matt Cardy / Stringer Getty Images

A story that does not come from an X-Men comic, nor from a Deadpool film, but from the contaminated territories around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Wolves mutated by radiation in the Chernobyl exclusion zone are reportedly resistant to cancer. This discovery has opened new perspectives on the adaptive biology of species exposed to extreme environmental conditions.

Recent studies have shown that wolves in the exclusion zone have developed an impaired immune system resistant to the development of cancer, despite daily exposure to radiation levels well beyond safe limits for humans.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting war interrupted the study.

Chernobyl
Chernobyl© Sean Gallup / Staff Getty Images Sport
 

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which occurred in 1986, had serious repercussions on the health and welfare of animals inhabiting the exclusion zone. Wildlife has been profoundly affected by both the air and even radioactive food.

Chernobyl's mutant wolves resist cancer

One of the most obvious impacts of the disaster was seen on the bird population, with studies finding a significant decrease in brain size. Radiation also had negative effects on other life forms, such as soil invertebrates, insects and mammals such as hares and foxes.

Cara Love, an evolutionary biologist and toxicology expert, began studying the Chernobyl wolves in 2014. The biologist and her team of researchers determined that these animals are exposed to radiation doses of 11.28 millirem per day on a daily basis and for their entire existence. A value six times higher than the safe limit for a human being.

Cara Love, an evolutionary biologist and toxicology expert, began studying the Chernobyl wolves in 2014. The biologist and her team of researchers determined that these animals are exposed to radiation doses of 11.28 millirem per day on a daily basis and for their entire existence. A value six times higher than the safe limit for a human being.

The team discovered that these animals have an altered immune system, comparable to that of a cancer patient undergoing radiotherapy.