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Emory, MCG Collaboration Wins $7.6M from NASA

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Researchers from Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute and the Medical College of Georgia will study a possible link between a component of space radiation and lung cancer, through a five-year, $7.6 million award from NASA.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will establish a NASA Specialized Center of Research (NSCOR), whose director will be Ya Wang, professor of radiation oncology at Winship and at Emory University School of Medicine. NSCOR will consist of researchers from Emory and MCG who will examine whether the risk of lung cancer is amplified by the stress response touched off by damage to DNA from exposure to high energy charged, or HZE, particles — a form of radiation to which astronauts could be exposed in low amounts during interplanetary space travel.

NSCOR investigators will join with physicists at Brookhaven National Laboratory to gather information on the effects of HZE. Individual projects will include how cells repair DNA damage induced by HZE particles, how HZE particles generate oxidative stress, and how HZE particles trigger DNA methylation.

HZE is not normally present on earth. While no epidemiological data exists showing the effects of human exposure to HZE particles, studies of uranium miners and Japanese atomic bomb survivors have produced some estimates, Wang said in a statement, adding that experiments on animals have linked HZE particle exposure to more tumors than other forms of radiation such as X-rays or gamma rays.

William Dynan, a professor at MCG's Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, said in a statement that the researchers "plan to visualize the response to HZE particle radiation in real time using nanomedicine tools and approaches."