Radiation Effects Research Foundation to install new equipment to manage tissue samples of A-bomb survivors

by Yota Baba, Staff Writer

The Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF), located in Minami Ward, Hiroshima, will install new equipment next fall to better manage blood, urine, and other samples provided by A-bomb survivors. RERF announced this plan on December 1 at a meeting of the Hiroshima Local Liaison Council, comprised of A-bomb survivors and medical experts.

The large cool storage equipment is three meters tall, 12 meters wide and 3.6 meters deep. It can store about 670,000 existing samples, as well as 1.2 million more samples to be collected over the next 20 years, at 80 degrees below zero. When the samples are needed, a robot inside automatically removes them from the shelves. Installing this new equipment will cost about 290 million yen. Currently, RERF uses about 80 small cool boxes to store samples, but it has encountered difficulties with this system, including the degradation of samples when the temperature rises inside a box as a result of opening and closing the door, and a lack of space for adding new cool boxes.

At the meeting, RERF also reported that about 10,000 people, or 82 percent, of those who received the foundation’s first medical check-up for second-generation A-bomb survivors between 2002 and 2006 are expected to undergo a second check-up between 2010 and 2014. RERF says that it will provide them with check-ups every four years into the future.

In addition, RERF explained at the meeting that a Japan and U.S. joint research project involving immune functions, subsidized by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a U.S. organization, is in its final phase. Regarding this research, those in A-bomb survivors’ groups and other organizations had expressed concern that samples of blood and other tissue from A-bomb survivors might be used for a military objective. Speaking to this concern, Toshiteru Okubo, the chairman of RERF, said, “Most of the analysis was conducted at RERF and any materials brought to the United States were properly managed.”

(Originally published on December 2, 2014)