CHRC is a new initiative exploring the health impact of radiological and chemical agents on military personnel and their families

The major component of the research programme currently underway in CHRC is a genetic and cytogenetic assessment of nuclear test veterans (NTV) and their families, looking for evidence of genetic damage as a consequence of participating at nuclear weapons test sites in the 1950s and 1960s. The research will comprise a biological assessment of NTV family trios (father, mother and child) and control family trios to look for any difference in the number and type of chromosomal changes, or mutations in the DNA, between the two populations. This work will be carried out in collaboration with Professor Julian Peto from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Professor Yuri Dubrova at the University of Leicester. These studies represent the first systematic attempt to evaluate the genome wide genetic effects of exposure to ionising radiation in this population and their descendants, and will provide a scientific rationale that will underpin translational and educational activities.  If risks are identified, further directed work will be developed, but if no differences are observed, then this would serve to reassure the veteran community.

This core genetic research will be complemented by projects involving academics across other discipline areas at Brunel and elsewhere. Dr Louise Mansfield and Professor Tess Kay (Welfare, Health and Wellbeing Theme) are exploring the use of sport, culture and exercise interventions to promote wellbeing among NTVs and their families, while Professor Mary Gilhooly and Dr Will Young (Ageing Studies Theme) will examine the impact of witnessing nuclear tests and exposure worry on the cognitive health of aged veterans. Two further projects will build on understanding the risks of exposure on genomic integrity and health. Professor Andreas Kortenkamp (Environment and Health Theme) will assess the genotoxic risks from combined exposures to radiation and chemicals to ask whether prior exposures could lead to heightened sensitivity to further chemical or radiation exposures, while Dr Rhona Anderson will look at the correlation between chromosomal abnormalities and potential health risks. The Centre is envisaged as a long term venture with plans to expand the research portfolio to benefit veteran health.