Three North Carolina research institutions are teaming with a Ukrainian group to study the effects and treatment of radiation, including the health effects on workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power site in the Ukraine.

An accident at the Chernobyl plant in 1986 led to the deaths and injuries of thousands of people.

Results of the program will be used to protect workers and people who might be affected by radiation.

RTI International, Duke University Medical Center and the University of North Carolina at Asheville will be working with the Research Center for Radiation Medicine of Ukraine.

The $5 million project is being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Researchers hope to secure additional funding.

"There is a unique opportunity to do medical and genetic measurements on these workers before, during and after exposures to various levels of ionizing radiation," said Geoff Ginsburg of Duke University’s Center for Genomic Medicine. "This will help develop diagnostics and treatments to protect people who work with nuclear materials, and also to protect the public in case of a release of radiation, such as a nuclear terrorism attack."

The project director is Michael Samuhel of RTI.

"Once the baseline medical and genetic data become available, opportunities open up for medical research by universities, government agencies and companies that are concerned not only about radiation exposures, but also about diseases such as cancer that have genetic components," Samuhel said.