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Study shows genetic damage to Vietnam War vets

Study shows genetic damage to Vietnam War vets

A significant level of genetic damage to the DNA of Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange poison has been found in a study by Massey molecular scientists.

The analysis of 25 veterans was conducted by Masters student Louise Edwards under the supervision of Dr Al Rowland, and the results of a genetic analysis are now in the hands of the veterans.

Ms Edwards and Dr Rowland from the Institute of Molecular Biosciences studied the rate of “sister chromatid exchange” in the cells – a test which analyses the way chromosomes self-replicate. A comparatively higher level of sister chromatid exchange identified in the study indicates genetic damage.

Dr Rowland says the sample is statistically small, but is significant in that it shows the group, who were exposed to a harmful environmental agent, have incurred genetic damage. The chromosomal reproduction of the 25 veterans was compared with a control group of 25 former servicemen who did not serve in Vietnam. Dr Rowland says the factors of smoking, alcohol consumption and the use of medical x-rays were taken into account when comparing the DNA of the two groups.

In April this year the Nuclear Test Veterans Association released the results of a similar study conducted by Dr Rowland. It involved the analysis of the DNA of Navy veterans exposed to nuclear radiation during Operation Grapple in 1957 and 1958 where nuclear bombs were detonated at Christmas Island and in the Malden Islands in Kiribati. A significant level of genetic damage was found in a series of five analyses to determine factors such as the amount of translocation in chromosomes, the efficiency of DNA repairs, and the level of DNA degradation.

ENDS

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