A Defense Department project plans to temporarily alter human genes, and shield people from deadly radiation exposure

In the early morning hours of April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine exploded, releasing a cloud of toxic fumes and radioactive particles. The fire burned for 10 days, as hundreds of plant staff, firefighters, and emergency responders desperately worked, often without proper safety equipment, to quench the blaze.

Of those, 134 people were eventually diagnosed with acute radiation syndrome, the illness that occurs when a person is exposed to a high dose of radiation across the entire body in a short period of time. Though Chernobyl’s total death toll is still disputed, it has been conclusively documented that 28 first responders died in the three months after the accident from radiation exposure.

ViktoriaAnselm [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

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