In early March, Andrzej Wojcik, professor of radiation biology at Stockholm University, signed a research collaboration agreement with Hirosaki University in Japan, an event which has also attracted attention in the Japanese media.

At the Japanese university, there is an educational and research programme called "Education programs for professionals in radiation emergency medicine." One of those responsible for the programme is Professor Yasushi Mariya, who Andrzej Wojcik knows since 1995, when they worked together at the University of Essen in Germany.

Yasushi Mariya is a radiation therapist and Andrzej Wojcik is a radiation biologist. Both are interested in mechanisms and markers of individual radiosensitivity and biological mechanisms of radiation therapy. In recent years, Andrzej Wojcik’s EU project in biological dosimetry at the Stockholm University Centre for Radiation Protection Research (CRPR) has attracted international attention. Yasushi Mariya has therefore taken the initiative for cooperation in emergency medicine where expertise in biological dosimetry at the CPRP will be integrated.

Studies on radiation-induced stress

Initially, Andrzej Wojcik and his seven colleagues at the CRPR will study the incidence of biomarkers of radiation-induced stress in a group of people who were exposed to radiation at the nuclear accident in Fukushima.

“Our Japanese partners have done dose estimates at the individual level and we will get biological tests that we will use to determine the levels of biomarkers. The purpose is to see if the level of biomarkers correlates with the dose estimates.”

It is a question of low doses, so the purpose is also to see if biomarkers are sensitive enough to be detected at millisievert levels. The exposure to radiation is made up of the acute dose at the accident itself and the internal contamination with caesium-137.

“People who live in areas around Fukushima hit by nuclear fallout are very concerned and there is a strong distrust of authorities, which is why this type of studies are now being conducted by independent researchers like Yasushi Mariya,” says Andrzej Wojcik.

Samples from the most contaminated city

According to Andrzej Wojcik, it is still too early to say exactly what kind of cooperation the agreement will lead to. But something that is very likely to happen is that the researchers at the CRPR will take biological samples from the town northwest of Fukushima which became the most contaminated, and examine these samples for biomarkers of exposure/stress.

“Our partners at Hirosaki University are responsible for the medical care of these people. If we find suitable financing, it is possible that someone from our group will be going there as well,” says Andrzej Wojcik, who will travel to Hirosaki in October to attend a meeting on radiation emergency preparedness and to lecture on radiation accidents.

 

Andrzej Wojcik´s research