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The Effects of Terahertz Radiation on Human Keratinocyte Primary Cultures and Neural Cell Cultures


Nicola Bourne, Richard H. Clothier, Marco D’Arienzo and Paul Harrison

Terahertz (THz) frequencies are found in a previously underexploited region of the radiation spectrum. This non-ionising energy is now being employed in medical imaging, so the possibility of adverse effects on human skin was evaluated. Primary cultures of normal human keratinocytes (NHKs) express adhesion molecules that comprise part of the natural barrier function of the skin. The effects of exogenous agents on this barrier function can be measured. The ND7/23 cell line, which displays the characteristics of sensory neurones, can proliferate in the undifferentiated state, but can be induced to differentiate and develop neurite-like projections. Previous studies with NHK and neural cell cultures produced no evidence of the inability of these cells to differentiate and form a barrier following THz exposure. The cells were exposed to 0.14THz radiation for times varying from 10 minutes to 24 hours. For each 80-nanosecond pulse, the cells were exposed to a peak power of between 24 and 62mW/cm2, i.e. a total energy at peak power of 345J, or 86J at average power over 24 hours. No changes in cell activity occurred, as monitored with the resazurin reduction assay, or with the barrier function of the human corneal cells, as measured with the fluorescein leakage assay. The monitoring of differentiation by using an assay for cornified envelope formation, revealed no adverse effects. Glutathione (GSH) and heat shock protein 70 levels were examined before and after differentiation, to determine the degree of the stress response, with the effects of UVB radiation as a control. UVB induced a stress response, as did heat shock treatment at 43°C, whilst 0.15THz radiation, even after 24 hours of exposure, did not. Repeated exposure to THz radiation at this level, also resulted in no detectable adverse reactions.

Full text pdf 36(6), 667–684