Janet's Conner

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Monday, July 31, 2006


Diane Stearns, medical researcher

Daytona Beach News-Journal Online
By: Audrey Parente
July 30, 2006

Stearns, a biochemist, was named principal investigator of a Northern Arizona University study tied to improving health among Native American communities. The project was funded by a joint grant awarded to the Flagstaff, Ariz., university and the Arizona Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute.

Q. As a chemistry professor, why did you study depleted uranium?

A. To encourage Native American students to go into cancer research. We found that the Navajo Nation is interested in exposure to radiation in mining. It is banned on the reservation, but they are planning to open the mines at Four Corner (Ariz.).

Q. What did you and your students study?

A. In my work we study how materials are toxic. We focus on the science. We looked at uranium as a heavy metal and how it can damage DNA independent of its radioactivity. Depleted uranium is less radioactive, but you are only looking at a small difference. We exposed cells grown in the lab to depleted uranium. It would be the form circulating through the body.

Q. What did you find?

A. We looked at the types of damages. We found strand breaks and that the uranium bonded to DNA---and that is something new.

Q. What does it mean in relationship to health?

A. We found mutations in the cell that can lead to cancer. Usually it also affects birth defects, but we did not study that.

Q. What is the value of this discovery?

A. Our work allows us to raise questions. If there is evidence that (depleted uranium) affects DNA, we definitely need to look at this.

***I thought that those in our military would like to know this since they are and were being exposed to depleted uranium!


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