2012 Second Best Student Poster and Platform Presentations: Lucas Portelli

Published on: Oct 18, 2012

Poster award:  Pulsed Temperature Stimulus limits growth of Fibrosarcoma HT1080 Cells

Platform award:  Inhomogeneity in Magnetic Fields of incubators is a confounder for Biological Variability and experimental irreproducibility

The first study presented at the 34th Bioelectromagnetics Society meeting in Brisbane, Australia was named “Inhomogeneity in Magnetic Fields of incubators is a confounder for Biological Variability and experimental irreproducibility”. We have designed, built and calibrated a number of sensors to measure the static and time-varying magnetic fields (up to 500 Hz) in 27 locations inside of 21 biological incubators and found that they are quite variable. In fact, it can vary by orders of magnitude within and between incubators. Variations of up to 240 ?T (at 60 Hz) and 450 ?T (static) can be observed within the same incubator in locations that are centimeters apart from each other as well as between incubators that are identical and located in the same laboratory. Additionally, the values measured were frequently outside of the range of magnitudes found naturally on Earth’s surface (23-65 ?T static, and < 0.1 ?T at 60 Hz) or ordinary habitation spaces (< 0.4 ?T at 60 Hz). Exposure to such altered background magnetic field environments has been shown experimentally in several laboratories (including ours) to be sufficient to cause numerous effects in cell cultures. Examples of the effects reported span from differential generation of free radicals and heat shock proteins to differences in cellular proliferation, differentiation and death. Despite the fact that these effects are still not well established and the molecular mechanism of action is currently under debate, these observations alone support the notion that the inhomogeneity of the background magnetic fields in incubators is a potential confounding source of the variability and irreproducibility for studies performed on cell cultures in general, especially when studying small or subtle biological effects. Also, this data would make the careful Bioelectromagnetics researcher appreciate the need to isolate cell cultures from the environment in the incubator when investigating the biological effects of exposure to magnetic fields of comparable characteristics to the ones measured.  To this effect, we also showed in this presentation a shielding system which can be placed in any incubator of standard size which was designed, built and tested, based on the worst-case data gathered from 21 incubators, making it possible to reduce such variations below the levels for which biological effects have been observed. For the platform presentation of this work, we were awarded the second best scientific paper in the student competition at this meeting. Coauthors for this work were Theodore Schomay and Frank Barnes.

The second study presented regards the effects of small, periodic temperature stimuli to biological systems with frequencies near the vicinity of their metabolic oscillations. It was named “Pulsed Temperature Stimulus limits growth of Fibrosarcoma HT1080 Cells”. For this work we have designed, built and calibrated a disposable system to expose cells in vitro to oscillating temperature while monitoring and controlling the system’s temperature in real-time. We have shown that HT1080 cells (Human Fibrosarcoma) were selectively susceptible to certain frequencies which seem to be close to one of its preferred metabolic states. This effect was different from the one obtained by imposing static temperature changes. For the poster presentation of this work, we were awarded the second best scientific paper in the student competition at this meeting. Coauthors for this work were Aditya Kausik and Frank Barnes.

We hope that the manuscripts prepared for both projects will be published soon.

Frank Barnes (advisor) with Lucas PortelliAbout me: When I was 8 years old, my family and I left Buenos Aires (Argentina) and resided nearly 17 years in Guatemala City, Central America. There I graduated as an Electrical Engineer from the Universidad Del Valle de Guatemala and was invited to join the Electrical Engineering department as an Assistant Professor for the next 4 years. During this time, I discovered my interest in the potential therapeutic applications of Electric, Magnetic and Electromagnetic fields and was then generously invited to join Prof. Frank Barnes research group in Boulder, Colorado, later in 2007. Although for more than 10 years my interest has been in the potential therapeutic applications of Electric, Magnetic and Electromagnetic fields, once Prof. Barnes and I started researching such effects, my interest has specialized and refined into several branches, such as the two studies presented at this year’s meeting. Other interests include the effects of electric, magnetic, and electromagnetic fields, temperature and other physical stimuli on the immune system, cancer and microbial systems as well as the computational electromagnetics and instrumentation design that are required to study such potential effects. Some of these projects were presented at previous annual meetings and are or will be published soon. One of the most important observations that came out of my short experience in this field is that extraordinary attention to detail is indispensable to study any of these possible effects. Potentially, this comprises reinventing many of the methods and tools that are normally used in laboratories. These are necessary steps to understand the mechanism of action behind such effects which will allow for their fundamental understanding and hopefully for its therapeutic use.

I am in the final year of my PhD program and hope to be graduated around the date this newsletter is published. I would like to carry on to a post-doc position to continue to enhance my knowledge and experience in Bioelectromagnetics preferably, but not necessarily, on any of these topics.

Finally, it has been a great honor to be recognized at the 34th Bioelectromagnetics Conference this year in Brisbane, Australia with awards for our two presentations. It is my desire to keep contributing to our meetings, journal and society for many more years.

My work was partially supported by Prof. Frank Barnes's 2004 Bernard M. Gordon Prize, the University of Colorado Engineering Excellence Fund (EEF), the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), the Summer Multicultural Access to Research Training (SMART) program, and by the
Department of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering and by NIH grant R01EB009115-02.