Chernobyl experienced the worst nuclear disaster in history on April 26, 1986. The reactor exploded after a failed safety test causing the surrounding area, including the neighboring town of Pripyat, to be uninhabitable due to high radioactivity levels. This area, also known as the ‘forbidden zone’, has been taken over by nature since it was abandoned.
Despite the inhabitable conditions for humans, many animals like boars, deer, moose, and wolves thrive in the area around the exploded nuclear reactor. American biologist Cara Love discovered that the wolves living near Chernobyl have evolved to survive in the radioactive environment.
Similar to cancer patients
The area where the wolves are located has a radioactive radiation of 11.28 millirems, which is six times more than the human safety limit. However, the wolves have adapted to these conditions over several generations. Love suggests that the wolves’ immune system is comparable to cancer patients undergoing radiation, and they may have even developed genes that are resilient to an increased risk of cancer. This was investigated using collars on the wolves that provided real-time measurements of their location and the amount of radiation they are exposed to.
This research could potentially contribute to the study of how gene mutations in humans can increase the chance of surviving cancer. It could change the script of known gene mutations.
Unfortunately, Love and her team have not been able to enter the ‘forbidden zone’ of Chernobyl in recent years due to the coronavirus and the war between Russia and Ukraine. The safety of the people and employees there is a priority, and it is unclear when she will return to Chernobyl.