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Nagasaki RERF Holds its Fifth Public Lecture

Panelists actively discussing uses of RERF biosamples

Nagasaki RERF held its fifth public lecture event at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum Hall, from 14:00 to 16:30 on Saturday, January 31, 2015. The lecture series is designed to enhance communication by conveying information to the general public, including atomic bomb survivors and their offspring, about results from RERF’s long-standing research on A-bomb radiation health effects.

This most recent public lecture event was the second in a series of two lectures, following the first held last year, having the theme “Considering Uses for RERF’s Stored Samples,” with the aim of obtaining feedback from the Nagasaki public about possible uses for the biosamples stored at RERF, including in collaborative research. Offered in the format of a panel discussion, the event was attended by more than 100 people.

RERF Chairman Toshiteru Okubo opened the lecture event by remarking, “The samples in the custody of RERF have been collected with the understanding and cooperation of A-bomb survivors and local communities. I believe that it is important to create a basic policy toward future management and utilization of these samples by referring to opinions expressed by cooperating parties and the general public. We hope that all of you will provide us with your honest feedback.”

The event’s first speaker, Dr. Misa Imaizumi, Chief, Divisions of Radiology and Clinical Laboratories, Department of Clinical Studies, Nagasaki RERF, elaborated on the topic “What we have learned about A-bomb radiation health effects.” Based on the idea of what we can learn from stored biosamples, Dr. Yoichiro Kusunoki, Chief, Department of Radiobiology/Molecular Epidemiology, spoke on the topic “The history of health and disease as told by genetic changes,” followed by a lecture by Dr. Ayumi Hida, Acting Chief, Department of Nagasaki Clinical Studies, titled “Seeking signs of impending disease.”

In the panel discussion following the aforementioned keynote lectures, the panelists exchanged opinions under the guidance of the panel chair Dr. Takehiko Koji, Chief, Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. The panelists included Dr. Masahiro Nakashima, Professor, Department of Tumor and Diagnostic Pathology, Atomic Bomb Disease and Hibakusha Medicine Unit, Atomic Bomb Disease Institute, Nagasaki University; Ms. Miyako Jodai, Atomic Bomb Survivor Representative, The 69th Nagasaki Peace Ceremony “Pledge for Peace”; Mr. Tokusaburo Nagai, Director, Nagasaki City Nagai Takashi Memorial Museum; and from RERF, Chief Scientist Kazunori Kodama, Dr. Kusunoki, and Dr. Hida.

The panelists expressed the following opinions: Mr. Nagai commented that “The samples donated by A-bomb survivors are as valuable as precious jewels and represent a huge source of information.” He added, “RERF is requested, however, to take special care in handling personal information.” Ms. Jodai stated, “After undergoing health examinations at RERF, my image of the foundation completely changed. Data obtained in Nagasaki should be utilized in case of radiation emergencies, including in the recent nuclear disaster in Fukushima.” Dr. Nakashima mentioned, “It is important to obtain the understanding of A-bomb survivors who have donated samples, create a structure for the preservation of samples, build a framework to promote shared use of biosamples and related collaborative research, and develop rules concerning use of such samples.”

In the question-and-answer session that followed, many audience members expressed their own ideas, including, “I think RERF is currently working on the development of rules concerning the use of stored biosamples, but will such rules cover outside investigators?” said one. “I feel as if communication between scientists and A-bomb survivors is lacking somehow. Releasing information about research results and carrying out related PR activities is therefore crucial.”

The event concluded with closing remarks by Executive Director Takanobu Teramoto, who expressed his gratitude for the participation in the public lecture and the valuable opinions expressed therein.