Recent Research

Editor’s note: The Bioelectromagnetics Society recently implemented a “Best Paper” award. While not directly connected with that award, we have invited all authors of recently published full research articles in the Bioelectromagnetics journal to provide a short summary of the background and context of the research documented in their articles so that Society members can from different disciples can better understand the reported work. For copyright reasons, these summaries are different from the abstracts published in the journal. In providing additional focus on the reported research, it is our hope that communication within the society is enhanced, providing a stronger
basis for assessing and selecting the best paper(s) published each year. Three authors of recent published papers have provided these summaries. We will be publishing more summaries in each issue of the newsletter on a space available basis.

GSM Base Stations: Short-Term Effects on Well-Being

Bioelectromagnetics, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp.73-80.

Authors: Christoph Augner, Matthias Florian, Gernot Pauser, Gerd Oberfeld, and Gerhard W. Hacker

The growing presence of cellular phone base stations in inhabited areas has raised concerns about possible health effects caused by emitted RF-EMF (radiofrequency electromagnetic fields). The World Health Organization (WHO) had recommended investigating the effects of RF-EMFs emitted by cellular phone base stations in its research agenda [WHO]. Although there is an emerging number of studies in this area of research, we have little evidence about possible effects owell-being [Hutter et al., 2006]. In an attempt to obtain further information, we utilized a standardized psychological questionnaire including three categories of subjective well-being (good mood, alertness, calmness). To additionally address the problem of ecological validity, we tested the 57 participants of our study under “real-life” exposure conditions. In a field laboratory, three different exposure levels were created by use of shielding devices that could be installed or removed during the breaks of the four consecutive 50- min experimental sessions such that double-blinded conditions prevailed. The overall median power flux densities were 5.2 μW/m² during “low”, 153.6 μW/m² during “medium”, and 2126.8 μW/m² during “high” exposure sessions. Predominant was a GSM-900 downlink signal emitted by an operating antenna mounted on the façade of the building. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three different exposure scenarios (HM, MH, and LL). For scenarios HM and MH, the first and third sessions were ‘‘low’’ exposure. The second session was ‘‘high’’ and the fourth was ‘‘medium’’ in scenario HM; and vice versa for scenario MH. Scenario LL had four successive ‘‘low’’ exposure sessions constituting the reference condition. Analysis of psychological well-being data revealed that participants in scenarios HM and MH (high and medium exposure) were significantly calmer during those sessions than participants in scenario LL (low exposure throughout) (p=0.042). Other well-being categories showed no significant differences. These results show that short-term exposure to GSM base station signal may increase calmness, which is consistent with evidence from EEG studies that revealed a slight hypnotic effect [Mann and Röschke, 1996; Borbély et al., 1999; Huber et al., 2000; Lebedeva et al., 2000, 2001]. In this context, further research should be done to find out whether any effects on concentration or work performance could be detected.

Contact: Christoph Augner, Deputy Head, IGGMB - Research Institute for Frontier Questions of Medicine and Biotechnology, Landeskrankenhaus Salzburg - University Clinics of the Paracelsus Medical Private University, Salzburg Federal Clinics (SALK), Muellner Hauptstrasse 48, A-5020 Salzburg, Austria. E-mail: c.augner@salk.at

References: Borbély AA, Huber R, Graf T, Fuchs B, Gallmann E, Achermann P. 1999. Pulsed high-frequency electromagnetic field affects human sleep and sleep electroencephalogram. Neurosci Lett 275:207-210.

Huber R, Graf T, Cote KA, Wittmann L, Gallmann E,Matter D, Schuderer J, Kuster N, Borbély AA, Achermann P. 2000. Exposure to pulsed high-frequency electromagneticfield during waking affects human sleep EEG.Neuroreport 11:3321-3325.

Hutter HP, Moshammer H, Wallner P, Kundi P. 2006.Subjective symptoms, sleeping problems, and cognitiveperformance in subjects living near mobile phone basestations. Occup Environ Med 63:307-313.

Lebedeva NN, Sulimov AV, Sulimova OP, KorotrovskayaTI, Gailus T. 2000. Cellular phone electromagnetic field effects on bems6519tric activity of human brain. Crit Rev Biomed Eng 28:323-337.

Lebedeva NN, Sulimov AV, Sulimova OP, Korotkovskaya TI, Gailus T. 2001. Investigation of brain potentials in sleeping humans exposed to the electromagnetic field of mobile phones. Crit Rev Biomed Eng 29:125-133.

Mann K, Röschke J. 1996. Effects of pulsed high-frequency electromagnetic fields on human sleep. Neuropsychobiology 33(1):41-47.

World Health Organisation (WHO). International EMF Project, Agenda for Research. http://www.who.int/pehemf/ research/agenda/en

Effect of Long Term Exposure to 0.5 T Static Magnetic Fields on Growth and Size of GH3 Cells
Bioelectromagnetics, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp.114-119.

Authors: Arthur D. Rosen and Erin E Chastney, Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, W. Lafayette, IN

There has been an ongoing interest in the effects of static magnetic fields (SMF) on biological systems for several decades. Virtually all of the reported effects attributed to moderate intensity SMFs have employed brief exposures and were of relatively short duration. This study was carriedout in an attempt to expand our knowledge of the effects of SMFs on cellular systems by examining the effects of prolonged exposures to moderate intensity SMFs on such basic cellular functions as growth and size.

We observed that prolonged exposure to a 0.5 T SMF was associated with a significant decrease in cellular proliferation and an increase in cell size. A statistically significant decrease in cell growth was noted following a two week exposure, with return to baseline after two weeks following removal from the field. With a four week exposure, a greater decrease in cell growth was noted with return to only after three weeks. When cell size was examined, we found that there was a statistically significant increase in diameter during the third and fourth week ofexposure which persisted for one week post exposure.

These findings may be explained by changes in the cellular actin cytoskeleton. This structure is involved in a process of continuous dynamic reorganization modulated by intracellular Ca2++. This process, though slow, is cumulative and is eventually reflected both in plasma membrane structure and in cytokinesis. It is the disruption of cytokinesis that explains not only the decreased rate of cellular growth but also the increase in cell size.

This study describes, for the first time, the effects of prolonged exposure to SMFs on cellular function. The explanation for this phenomenon is derived from several diverse disciplines and emphasizes the dynamic processes involved in cellular growth. It also offers an excellent model for the further study of the long term effects of SMFs.

Mobile phone use and location of glioma
Bioelectromagnetics, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp.176-182.

Authors: Hanna Hartikka, Sirpa Heinavaara, Riitta Mantyla, Veikko Kahara, Paivi Kurttio, and Anssi Auvinen, STUK – Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, Helsinki, Finland.

Why is this particular research area important to Bioelectromagnetics?

Cancer risk from radiofrequency fields is a key scientific controversy at the moment with major public health importance due to the ubiquitous exposure.

What was already known about this topic prior to this research?

A large number of case-control studies have already been published about the relation between mobile phone use and brain tumor risk. The results are inconsistent, with some indicating increased risks either overall or some sub-groups such as those with long duration of use or ipsilateral tumors occurring on the same side where the phone was generally held. The major uncertainty is the crude exposure information with substantial uncertainty due to self-reported retrospective usage data.

What did this work contribute to the subject?

This new approach to the analysis has the potential to avoid both major shortcomings of earlier studies. Accurate localisation of the tumor allows more detailed exposure assessment in terms of field strength. Using distance between phone and tumor as the key exposure indicator instead of call-time avoids recall bias (lack of comparability of reported exposure between tumor cases and controls with potential distortion of the results.