National Research Programme NRP 57

In view of the scientific uncertainties regarding non-ionising radiation and the public concern in Switzerland and abroad, the National Research Programme NRP 57 is dedicated to state-of-the-art research to identify potential, adverse non-thermal effects of ELF and RF exposures on human health and to facilitate the risk assessment of current and future technologies. In its framework, 11 research projects covering four research areas address various aspects ranging from interaction mechanisms at the cellular level to risk perception in the general population. The projects are also in the focus of a series of scientific workshops.

The first of four scientific NRP 57 workshops were held on January 11, 2008 in Zurich, Switzerland. The workshop topic, “Dosimetry meets epidemiology”, met with great interest by professionals in the field. The list of participants, the speakers’ presentations and a summary of the final panel session can be downloaded at the NRP 57 Web site: http://www.nfp57.ch/e_index.cfm The second scientific workshop “Towards a mechanism-based framework in EMF research”, held May 5-6, 2008 at the Hotel Zürichberg in Zurich, Switzerland, aimed at exploring the difficulties as regards the newest results in the areas of ELF and RF electromagnetic fields and their effect on DNA damage and repair, stress response (with emphasis on MAPK, ERK and Hsp27) as well as the role of temperature in these processes (thermal vs. non-thermal effects, temperature change sensing elements and down-stream signalling, role of temperature in induction of stress response).

Despite an increasing interest in this research field and extensive investigation of the relation of EMF and effects at the cellular level, the numerous findings remain isolated, controversial and problematic due to the lack of a sophisticated mechanism-based framework. As a consequence, the problems and shortcomings in the approaches used until now and the lack of a coherent strategy have so far also prevented a meaningful assessment of the significance of the data and their potential effects on human health. Conference organizer, Dr. Christian Mottas (Phone: ++41 31 308 22 22, e-mail: cmottas@snf.ch) expected designated experts from abroad and researchers from the programme to actively discuss these scientific issues, providing a unique opportunity for a fruitful exchange of views to advance the field. Conference highlights include:

Monday, May 5
Welcoming address, Alexander Borbély, President SC NRP 57

Session 1 DNA damage and repair in EMF exposed cells
Chairs: Dariusz Leszczynki and Christian Hess

Radiation-induced damage to DNA: assessment of oxidatively generated lesions. Jean Cadet, Laboratoire Lésions des Acides Nucléiques, Département de Recherche Fondamentale sur la Matière Condensée, Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique (CEA), Grenoble, France

Mechanisms of radiation-induced genotoxicity and DNA repair, implications for EMF and low dose ionizing radiation. Tomas Lindahl, Mutagenesis Laboratory, Clare Hall Laboratories, London Research Institute, Cancer Research, UK

Cytogenetics in EMF research: What can be expected, what has been achieved? Günter Obe, Prof. em., University Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Genotoxicity of EMFs: Exploring DNA directed effects and experimental discrepancies. Primo Schär, Institute of Biochemistry and Genetics, Department of Clinical and Biological Research, University of Basel, Switzerland

Presentations followed by a panel discussion on shortcomings in mechanism-based EMF research and ways forward chaired by Alexander Borbély

Tuesday, May 6
Session 2 Cellular stress response to EMF
Chairs: Pierre Goloubinoff and Primo Schär

Small stress proteins as regulators of intracellular redox state and programmed cell death. André-Patrick Arrigo, Head of Stress, Chaperons and Cell Death Laboratory, Claude Bernard University, Lyon, France

Mechanism of short-term ERK activation by electromagnetic fields at mobile phone frequencies. Rony Seger, Department of Biological Regulation, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel

Activation of p38MAPK/Hsp27 stress pathway by RF-EMF and its possible consequences. Dariusz Leszczynski, Radiation Biology Unit, Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), Helsinki, Finland and Guangbiao Professor, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China

Challenges from the perspective of stress-response in EMF studies. Meike Mevissen, Division of Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology, Vetsuisse Faculty Bern, University of Bern, Switzerland

Session 3 Research models in EMF research
Chairs: Meike Mevissen and Dariusz Leszczynski

Weak microwave radiation does not substantially alter gene expression patterns in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans David de Pomerai, Institute of Genetics, University of Nottingham, UK

The plant heat-shock response is controlled by specific calcium channels in the plasma membrane. Younousse Saidi, Biology Department, University of York, UK

Temperature and EMF effects on nematodes modelling protein misfolding diseases. Pierre Goloubinoff, Department of Plant Molecular Biology, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Presentations followed by a panel discussion on the significance of observed effects for human health chair: Alexander Borbély