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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Cellular Effects of Electromagnetic Fields


Jonne Naarala, Anne Höytö and Ari Markkanen

Studies at the cellular level are needed to reveal the cellular and molecular biological mechanisms underlying the biological effects and possible health implications of non-ionising radiation, such as extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields (MFs) and radiofrequency (RF) fields. Our research group has studied the effects of 50Hz ELF MFs (caused by power lines and electric devices) and 872MHz or 900MHz RFs (emitted by mobile phones and their base stations) on cellular ornithine decarboxylase activity, cell cycle kinetics, cell proliferation, and necrotic or apoptotic cell death. For RFs, pulse-modulated (217Hz modulation frequency corresponding a global system for mobile communication-type signal) or continuous wave (unmodulated) signals were used. To expose the cell cultures to MFs or RFs, specially developed exposure systems were used, where levels of electromagnetic field exposure and the conditions of cell culture could be precisely controlled. A coexposure approach was used in many studies, i.e. the cell cultures were exposed to other stressors in addition to MFs or RFs. Ultraviolet radiation, serum deprivation, or fresh medium addition, were used as co-exposures. The results presented in this short review show that the effects of mere MFs or RF on cell culture models are quite minor, but that various co-exposure approaches warrant additional study.