BEMS member, Raphael Lee, Professor in Surgery and Director of the Center for Research of Molecular Cell Repair, at the University of Chicago was recently named an AAAS fellow. He is an internationally recognized expert in plastic surgery, burn trauma and bioengineering.
His research focuses on developing molecular regeneration strategies to treat trauma-related injuries. Specifically, Dr. Lee’s work involves therapeutic approaches to restore proper molecular form and function to injured cells. Typically, injured cells have disrupted cell membranes and their proteins tend to change structure and lose biological function. Lee’s research team has developed biocompatible surfactants, or surface-active agents, that can seal disrupted cell membranes in injured cells and help proteins regain their original structure and function.
Dr. Lee is a member of numerous academic associations, including the American College of Surgeons and the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers. He has authored four books, nearly 200 research articles and many patents, and he has founded four technology companies. In addition to being named a MacArthur Fellow and a Searle Scholar, Lee also has received more than 20 research awards and honorary degrees.
Dr. Lee is also incoming chair of the University of Chicago Quadrangle Club (Hyde Park campus) and has been overseeing the extensive remodeling the eighty-five year old structure. Noted physicists Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard discussed the Manhattan Project a block away and the nation’s first Nobel laureate in science, Albert Michelson, who conducted experiments on the speed of light, painted watercolors in the building. “There are few museums in this country that could put up a more interesting display,” says Dr. Lee, 58. “If you walked in there now and walked out, you would have no idea. It really should be a city-recognized monument, given what’s gone on here.”
Additional information about the restoration project can be found at:
Bioelectromagnetics in London, Ontario, Canada
By: John Robertson, Julia McKay, and Frank Prato
Editor’s note: The following article is the first in what we hope will be a series of reports from labs around the world performing work in Bioelectromagnetics. We begin with the lab of Frank Prato, former president of BEMS, who commented recently “though incredible hard work, some luck, and support of our institution, we have a modestly successful program.... Success is achieved in many ways. We have done it one way. When you publish similar reports from other groups, we will get other approaches. [Taken] together, [this] will give ideas to others as to what must be sacrificed and done to achieve success.”
In 1983, Frank Prato was on the forefront of research into a new medical imaging technique, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). That same year, he produced the first cardiac MR image in Canada (later published in 1985 in Circulation). This very promising medical technology had a number of potential benefits over conventional x-ray and nuclear medicine imaging, not the least of which was the fact that it did not use ionizing radiation, and thus posed little risk to the patient.
Frank Prato, however, did not believe in getting something for nothing. He wondered if there were potential biological effects associated with the static, extremely low frequency (ELF), and radiofrequency magnetic fields used in MRI. With the increasing use of imaging technology in medicine, he realized that it would become important to perform MRI research with “eyes open”, fully aware of the potential benefits, as well as other effects.
But how to begin? How to determine if exposures to MRI could have biological effects? While discussing this problem with a psychiatry resident who had a Ph.D. in applied mathematics, it was suggested that one could evaluate behavioural endpoints after MRI exposures both in animals and humans. After Dr. Prato read a first year psychology textbook and a publication by Dr. Klaus-Peter Ossenkopp on effects of magnetic fields on rodents, he decided to visit Dr. Nancy Innis, a rodent behavioural expert in the Psychology Department at the University of Western Ontario (UWO). When Dr. Prato asked Dr. Innis whether she believed the effects reported by Dr. Ossenkopp, he was both surprised and pleased to learn that Dr. Ossenkopp had just been recruited to UWO. A collaboration was then started that would last over 15 years. The style would be the classic bioelectromagnetics style: Dr. Prato would provide the dosimetry expertise and Dr. Ossenkopp the biological expertise. A few years later, Dr. Martin Kavaliers, then in Oral Biology at UWO, joined the team, as did Dr. Dick Drost, as a MRI physicist on the instrumentation/dosimetry side of the project. Although this work used a number of behavioural endpoints, such as the Radial Maze and Morris Water Maze, the lasting contribution, now reproduced in a number of laboratories in many countries,is the observation of the effects on opioid related behaviours. The original work was performed in 1982 and then published in 1985. This then led to funding from the Canadian Medical Council and the Canadian National Health Research and Development Program which included a valuable study on effects of human exposure to MRI that helped set standards for exposure. Although there would be rough times ahead for the research funding of bioelectromagnetics in London, these publications and funding marked the start of research that began in 1982 and now continues to the present day and promises to continue into the future.
Early research (1982-1996)
Rather than continue with the somewhat “messy” MRI system (which was also needed to scan subjects for imaging studies), Dr. Prato and his then-graduate student Jeff Carson (’88-‘95) designed and built a one meter cubed exposure system of three nested Helmholtz-like orthogonal coils to produce virtually any desired field exposure within the static and ELF range based on work published by Dr. Abraham Liboff showing effects on diatom motility affected by particular combinations of ELF and static magnetic fields. This set of coils, funded by a grant from UWO to Drs. Kavaliers and Ossenkopp, has been used in a number of experiments within our lab, exposing cell cultures, snails, mice, and rats, and is still in active service today.
Dr. Jeff Carson did his fourth year undergraduate work looking for possible effects of ELF magnetic field exposure on intracellular calcium. This area of research would continue to be a passion of Drs. Carson and Prato to the present day. They proceeded to recruit Dr. Jeff Dixon, a cell calcium expert, to the team and they developed the concept of looking for effects during magnetic field exposure. Dr. Carson, while working on his Ph.D., presented his work for three years at the annual Bioelectromagnetics Society meetings.
Dr. Jan Walleczek, working with luminaries such as Dr. Thomas Budinger, had shown that there was a threshold of induced voltage that would alter calcium flux across a cell membrane using radioactive calcium as a marker. During a visit to London, Dr. Walleczek gave an inspiring lecture that further encouraged Drs. Carson and Prato to build a dedicated exposure/spectrofluorimeter system that would allow the exposure of cells to ELF magnetic fields with the simultaneous measurement of cytosolic calcium using dyes. Using this new system, the cell experiments were underway. Dr. Robert Liburdy of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California, whose fluorescent cell work had indicated that weak electric fields could affect cytosolic calcium concentrations, then visited and performed further experiments using Dr. Carson’s exposure/spectrofluorimeter system.
Later, Dr. Valeri Lednev who had proposed a model for field interactions with biological systems, came to London for a week-long visit. During his visit, he refined his work into his parametric resonance model which would guide our experiments in snails over the next decade. Dr. Prato later visited Dr. Lednev in Russia and they continued communicating for many years. Dr. Lednev was followed by Dr. Stefan Engstrom who further expanded Dr. Lednev’s ideas and proposed experiments that might distinguish a magnetite driven mechanism from one associated with ion resonance.
The final visitor in this phase was Dr. Charles Polk, considered the dean of Bioelectromagnetics. After retiring from a successful career in Electrical Engineering (he was the Chairman of the Electrical Engineering Department at the University of Rhode Island from 1959-1979), he edited, along with Dr. Elliot Postow, the influential “bible” on bioelectromagnetics: ‘The CRC Handbook of Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Fields’. The first edition appeared in 1986, followed by the second in 1995, and continues to this day to be a valuable resource. While in his “second career” as a bioelectromagnetics scientist, Dr. Polk was well known for his extensive knowledge on biophysical mechanisms of the interactions of magnetic fields with biological systems. He was extremely generous with his time, and on one occasion Drs. Prato, Polk, and Lednev worked on a translation from Russian to English of one of Dr. Lednev’s manuscripts. Drs. Carson and Prato were delighted when Dr. Polk agreed, in his 80s, to be the external examiner on Dr. Carson’s Ph.D. defence. During his visit to London, Dr. Polk also gave an inspirational lecture on interaction mechanisms which further encouraged the growth of bioelectromagnetics in London. After that, Dr. Polk often helped our group by reviewing manuscripts before they were submitted for consideration for publication.
While Dr. Carson was working on his Ph.D. project, he was also helping with the continuation of the opioid behavioural work, particularly with Dr. Kavaliers. It was at this point that funds became tight and the group turned to the use of land snails. It had been shown by Dr. Kavaliers and his graduate student Campbell Teskey that land snails had an intact opioid system which responded to agonists such as morphine. This allowed significant progress to be made in testing different combinations of fields in a large number of animals. Using the nested Helmholz coils built by Dr. Carson, Drs. Kavaliers and Prato found a robust effect of time-varying magnetic fields on opioid-related behaviours in snails and mice. They investigated what biophysical detection mechanism might underlie the change in noiciception (pain is an experience, both emotional and sensory; nociception is just the sensory part of pain). The next point of investigation was to determine what specific aspects of the applied fields influenced that effect (for at the time, they had found that acute exposures to rotating magnetic fields increased nociception, that is, made pain worse).
Early experiments, suggested by Dr. Stefan Engstrom, determined that the magnitude of an induced electric field (that is, the product of the magnetic field’s frequency and strength) did not influence the opioid effect. An interaction between the direction of the static magnetic field and the time-varying applied magnetic field indicated that an ion resonance mechanism was at work (consistent with earlier theories published by Liboff, Lednev, Blanchard, and Blackman).
Several experiments along these lines added more evidence for an effect of magnetic fields on snails and mice, and fleshed out some of the necessary parameters, such as a dependence on the presence of light. Most importantly though, sets of parameters (the magnitudes of the static and time-varying fields, their relative orientation, as well as the frequency, keyed to influence the potassium and calcium ions in particular ways according to the ion parametric resonance theory) were discovered that could reduce nociception in animals. This exciting discovery created a new reason for studying the effects of magnetic fields: to no longer simply determine potential effects and risks, but also to develop novel treatments that might prove beneficial.
More Recent Research (1997-2007)
In 1997, Alex Thomas joined the Lawson group as a Ph.D. candidate focusing on the therapeutic uses of magnetic fields other than sinusoids. Dr. Thomas had just completed a bachelor degree from Laurentian University and became interested in magnetic field research through his association with Dr. Michael Persinger. Dr. Persinger’s work, in the area of neuro- and behavioural psychology, has been somewhat controversial, but his passion for bioelectromagnetics has spanned some 30 years and has encouraged a number of excellent students to pursue bioelectromagnetics as a career. When Dr. Thomas arrived to do his graduate work with Dr. Kavaliers and Prato, he had already developed a hypothesis that the information content of the applied magnetic field was an important aspect to be optimized if therapeutic biological effects were to be realized. He developed specific pulsed magnetic fields with particular patterns and information content that could have specific effects on animal behavior. One such pulse, based loosely on creating induced currents to mimic the firing pattern of a snail’s basal ganglion when stimulated by opioids, was found to have an analgesic effect. This analgesia was demonstrated in snails and mice, and was shown to be much more potent than the analgesia induced by the sinusoidal fields used previously by Dr. Prato.
With these successes came the vision of developing a larger program in bioelectromagnetics. Working with Dr. David Hill, the scientific director at the Lawson Health Research Institute (Lawson), it was decided to create a Bioelectromagnetics Scientist position in London. To spark this event, Lawson held a symposium over a three day period. Dr. Ross Adey, a BEMS d’Arsonval winner who was well known for his pioneering work on calcium efflux under non-thermal ELF and RF exposure conditions, assisted in the drafting of the scientific program and agreed to give the keynote address. The first researcher to hold the position of Bioelectromagnetics Scientist was Dr. Alex Thomas who was recruited to this position in August 2001 after he completed his Ph.D. in Medical Biophysics.
One of Dr. Thomas’ first graduate students was Naomi Shupak (’02-‘04). She tested Dr. Thomas’ pulseform in humans and found an effect on pain thresholds without affecting sensory thresholds. This is an important safety consideration when considering a treatment for everyday household use: if, for instance, a person becomes numb to pain as well as sensory stimuli, then they might accidentally cause tissue damage to themselves without realizing it (for example, by biting the inside of your mouth after a trip to the dentist). The pulse was also shown to differentially affect the standing balance of fibromyalgia patients compared to controls, suggesting an application to diagnostic medicine as well.
The applications of this pulsed magnetic field were patented (1997), and a spin-off company was formed to oversee licensing of the technology. Initially, Fralex Therapeutics (a portmanteau of FRAnk and ALEX, after Dr. Prato and Dr. Thomas) operated within Lawson, and developed a portable version of the pulsed magnetic field exposure system that patients could take home with them. This led to the first trial of pulsed magnetic field therapy on chronic pain patients with multiple exposures given at the home. The promising results from this study will be published shortly in Pain Research & Management.
Several years ago, Fralex Therapeutics was bought out, and recently had an IPO on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE:FXI) for over $10 million (CDN). They are currently undertaking an FDA/Health Canada clinical trial and preparing to market a portable pulsed magnetic field therapy device for patients with chronic pain from fibromyalgia.
In addition to treating pain with applied magnetic fields, the bioelectromagnetics group in London is also investigating the effect of repeated magnetic field shielding on nociception in mice. These experiments started with a mu metal box that was borrowed from a group in Italy with the help of Dr. Elena Choleris (‘99-‘00). Dr. Choleris was originally recruited from Italy by Dr. Kavaliers to do a placement during her Ph.D. and then was recruited back as a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Prato’s laboratory. Dr. Choleris arranged for Drs. Prato, Kavaliers, and Thomas to meet with Dr. Papi’s team in Pisa after the BEMS Bologna meting. The Pisa research group had just discovered nociceptive-like effects when mice were placed in a shielded environment. Since then, many experiments have been performed here in London demonstrating a very robust analgesic effect when mice are shielded within mu metal enclosures for one hour per day. By day 5, shielded mice have significantly longer latency times when placed on a hotplate analgesiometer than sham exposed mice (those kept in a Plexiglas box that does not attenuate magnetic fields). This effect is transitory however, with the analgesic effect disappearing by day 10. Interestingly, this effect is also light-dependent, only occurring in the dark (when short-wavelength light is introduced to the mu metal enclosures, the mice no longer have an analgesic response on day 5).
Within humans, Dr. Charles Cook (graduate student in London from ‘00-‘05) examined how a specific pulsed magnetic field can affect EEG measures. He discovered several interesting features, such as a differential effect of what is essentially the same pulsed magnetic field when it is applied with different spacings between repetitions. Dr. Cook has been influenced by Dr. Andrew Wood from Australia in the area of effects of RF exposure on EEG and by Dr. Niels Kuster from Switzerland in the area of blood flow changes during RF exposures.
A model of blood perfusion (using the hindlimb muscle of a rat) has been developed by a collaborator within the University of Western Ontario, Dr. Karel Tyml, and the effects of magnetic fields (both sinusoidal and pulsed) have been investigated by several undergraduate students supervised by Dr. Thomas. More recently in 2004, that work was expanded into the Ph.D. thesis of Julia McKay exploring the effects of several ELF fields (analgesic pulseform, 60 Hz) of various strengths on blood flow and blood pressure in rats. Dave McNamee, a current M.Sc. student under Drs. Prato and Thomas, is now exploring 60 Hz magnetic field effects on cardiovascular parameters in humans.
More human work is currently in process by M.Sc. candidate, Genevieve Albert, in collaboration with Dr. Vijayalaxmi from San Antonio, Texas and Pascale Bellier and Dr. James McNamee from Health Canada. She is comparing DNA damage detected by cytogenetic studies in peripheral blood lymphocytes collected from healthy adult volunteers before and after exposure to a 200 μT sinusoidal magnetic field.
The early calcium/cell work still continues today as Dr. Carson was recruited back to London from Stanford in Sept. 2003. Dr. Carson and a former graduate student, Dr. Cheryl McCreary (‘98-‘04), studied calcium ion dynamics within Jurkat cells and how the influence of the applied magnetic fields can vary with the progression through the cell cycle. Dr. Carson also studied cell-free systems of chemical oscillators that may model very basic enzymatic processes that can be influenced by magnetic fields or light. Recently, Dr. Carson has been using cytosolic calcium measurements to probe the free radical mechanism as the initial transduction event of biological effects of ELF magnetic fields.
Other new exciting research is now underway, with scientists such as Dr. Rob Stodilka and Dr. Yves Bureau. Dr. Stodilka is currently working on a computer simulation of a neural network, and investigating how that network responds to simulated induced electric field exposures of differing frequencies (a preview of this work was presented in Kanazawa ‘07), as well as preparing a project to investigate how radiofrequency communication devices (i.e. cell phones) can affect sensitive medical imaging equipment. Dr. Bureau is meanwhile investigating behavioural effects of pulsed and sinusoidal magnetic fields, having recently finished a series of experiments that examined how c-fos gene expression in the mouse brain was influenced by magnetic fields, and whether that correlated with the analgesic effect seen.
It would appear that we have come full circle from Dr. Prato’s initial experiments with MRI, to some current bioelectromagnetics projects using MRI.
One of the earliest discoveries in bioelectromagnetics was made by R.P. Blakemore when he discovered that certain bacteria made biogenic magnetite that was used to sense and respond to the earth’s static geomagnetic field. These microorganisms can use a magnetic field to orient themselves due to the endogenous production of biomagnetite within magnetosomes. Now that we are entering the era of molecular biology, Dr. Prato realized that the genes in these bacteria that produce this magnetic sensor could be used in two different ways. First, these genes, once extracted from the bacteria, could be introduced into other organisms to confer magnetic sensitivity. But also, as had been shown by Dr. Joe Kirschvink in the early 90s, these magnetite particles could be visualized by MRI systems. Dr. Donna Goldhawk (recently recruited to our group) is developing a novel contrast agent for MRI based on genes from these magnetotactic bacteria. Dr. Goldhawk is working on ways of transfecting the genes for these magnetosomes into other cell lines so that they can be imaged in vivo by MRI. This will hopefully lead to new ways of tracking cancer growth in vivo over long terms: current methods of tracking these cells with high resolution imaging techniques rely on the use of tracer agents, such as radioisotopes or iron nanoparticles, which are diluted out beyond detectable ranges after several cellular divisions. If the cells, however, are capable of producing the magnetocontrast agent endogenously, then that should allow cancer researchers to track the growth and metastasis process over a much longer time period.
In terms of the analgesia work, John Robertson, a current Ph.D. student is investigating the functional MR imaging of acute pain, and how brain activation can be altered with analgesic pulsed magnetic field exposures.
The bioelectromagnetics laboratories of London, Ontario have come a long way from one person trying to understand risk by performing research only on evenings and weekends, to a bustling laboratory of many scientists dedicated solely to bioelectromagnetics projects. Currently, our group is examining many different behaviors and physiological systems for both the understanding of the consequences of magnetic field exposures as well as the therapeutic applications.
We in London have been only able to see where to go at times because we have stood on the shoulders of the giants who have sacrificed so much for our specialty. With future collaborations and the exceptional work being performed by others in our Society, it is our hope that one day we as a group will be able to paint a clear picture of the risks and benefits of electric and magnetic fields.
Our Group: Present and Into the Future
Our group is based within the Lawson Health Research Institute, and affiliated with the University of the Western Ontario. Drs. Prato, Thomas, Carson, Stodilka, and Legros hold professorships within the Department of Medical Biophysics, and Dr. Bureau within the Department of Psychology. There are several undergraduate students working within our labs, two M.Sc. candidates, two Ph.D. candidates (each with national scholarships), two full-time scientists, several others who work on bioelectromagnetics projects as well as others within the imaging department, and an invaluable technical services director. To conduct research on humans, animals, and cells, we have at our disposal wet lab space (including incubators and electrophoresis equipment), two human exposure chambers, an animal exposure system, mu metal mouse enclosures, as well as equipment to measure EEG, standing balance, heart rate and blood perfusion, thermal pain, postural tremor, and a host of other parameters.
We are actively engaged in researching the biological effects of extremely low frequency magnetic fields (both pulsed and sinusoidal) with strengths from μT to mT. We have a strong focus on encouraging student leadership and participation on the world stage. Each of our students is completely in charge of their own projects, and is sent to present at international conferences at least once a year, where we expect them to give excellent presentations in both style and content (see table on BEMS student awards).
Outreach has always been a priority for us, and we have a history of taking students who don’t quite know what to do with their lives, and helping to turn them around into some of our best and most dedicated graduates. Outreach within the community is also important, and we have been reaching out to area high schools to give workshops on bioelectromagnetics and medical imaging. Soon, our involvement in the community will become even more pronounced as we have hired a student specifically to arrange and facilitate our outreach initiatives.
Our funding sources consist largely of competitive peer-reviewed grants, such as NSERC, CIHR, ORDCF, and CFI, although we also receive some industry-matched funding and private donations. We build collaborations with other groups where possible to create the best research we can (one example is our recent collaboration with Hydro Québec and Electricitié de France).
Looking towards the future, research in bioelectromagnetics in London, Ontario promises to be exciting and cutting-edge. A recent CFI award will give us access to a combination MRI-PET-EEG system that will allow us to obtain images of the functional processing of the brain, and to observe how magnetic field exposures affect this processing. We will also be acquiring a mu metal enclosure and EEG system to examine the effects of hypogeomagnetic environments on human subjects.
We have recently applied to the Ontario provincial government for funding to create the Canadian Centre for Bioelectromagnetics Research (CCBR). With the creation of the CCBR, we hope to increase our presence on the world stage, and also secure funding to hire more post-doctoral fellows and graduate students to expand our program of research and scientific outreach. Among those who have encouraged our work through letters of support for the creation of the Canadian Centre for Bioelectromagnetics Research are: Dr. Anne Beuter, Dr. Jitendra Behari, Dr. Ferdinando Bersani, Dr. Charles Cook, Dr. Gugliemo D’Inzeo, Dr. Daniel Goulet, Dr. Ben Greenebaum, Dr. Niels Kuster, Dr. Jacques Lambrozo, Dr. Claude Lemaire, Dr. James McNamee, Dr. Art Thansandote, Dr. Shoogo Ueno, Dr. Vijayalaxmi, Dr. Diana Wilkinson, and Dr. Andrew Wood. Special thanks also to: Dr. Carl Blackman, Dr. Rene De Seze, Dr. Stefan Engstrom, Dr. Dariusz Leszczynski, and Dr. Arthur Pilla.
Collaboration with Hydro-Québec/ Electricité de France / RTERTE
In 2005, the Lawson BEMS group began its collaboration with two electricity companies: Hydro-Québec (Canada) and Electricité de France/Réseaux Transport Electricité (EDF/RTE, France). This all began when Dr. Anne Beuter from France invited Dr. Thomas to be the external examiner for Dr. Alexandre Legros’ Ph.D. defence which was supported by Hydro-Québec (financial support) and EDF/RTE (material support: they allowed their workers to volunteer as subjects during their work hours). While in France, Dr. Thomas realized that Dr. Legros would be an important addition to the Lawson bioelectromagnetics team. Dr. Legros was thereafter recruited from France to facilitate this collaboration and the various individuals involved in this project agreed with enthusiasm that London would be a great place to pursue this collaborative effort! Dr. Alex Thomas would therefore lead what we called the Hydro-Québec/EDF/RTE project phase 1.
This became the starting point of our current multidimensional project (2005-2008) investigating the potential effects of acute human exposure to a 60 Hz magnetic field (1800 μT). The purpose of this project is to detect, quantify, and characterize the changes potentially induced in physiological (cardiovascular parameters, peripheral blood perfusion), neurophysiological (electroencephalography), and motor (physiological tremor, standing balance, voluntary hand movements) functions before, during, and after such an exposure. As a first step, a new laboratory was developed and installed at Lawson (2005-2006) and is exclusively dedicated to this project.
The Hydro-Québec/EDF/RTE project phase 1 involves international teamwork: nine scientists and four students coming from four different administrative entities. Three scientists and four students from the BEMS group of the LHRI are involved in this project: Dr. Alex Thomas, Dr. Frank Prato, Dr. Alexandre Legros, David McNamee, Michael Corbacio, Samantha Brown, and Julie Weller. Moreover, three other students have been transiently involved in this project through the course of their training as well (Jessica McPherson, Harry Marshall, and Leslie Martin). Dr. Anne Beuter from the University of Bordeaux (France) is our neurophysiological expert; Drs. Daniel Goulet (scientific advisor), Michel Plante (Public Health head office), and Duc Nguyen (engineer) are our contacts from Hydro-Québec (Canada); and Drs. Jacques Lambrozo (Directeur du Service des Etudes Médicales) and Martine Souques (Service des Etudes Médicales) are our contacts from EDF/RTE (France).
We are now in the process of preparing the Hydro-Québec/EDF/RTE phase 2 project (2008-2012). The goal of this phase will be to focus on the effects of human exposure to a 60 Hz magnetic field (up to 3000 μT) on cognitive functions and brain activation using functional brain imaging techniques. Dr. Stephanie Dubois (clinical psychologist) and John Robertson (Ph.D. candidate) are joining our team to accomplish this new challenge. We have already received human ethics approval, and have collected pilot data to support this new adventure!
Frank S. Prato, Ph.D., FCCPM , ABMP
Frank Prato, a past president of the Bioelectromagnetics Society, received his M.Sc. in Nuclear Physics in 1971 and his Ph.D. in Medical Biophysics in 1976, both from the University of Toronto. In 1982, his laboratory produced the first image of the brain in Canada using MRI, which eventually led him to develop a research program in bioelectromagnetics. Dr. Prato has published over 120 peer review papers, 350 abstract presentations, 100 invited presentations, and trained some 50 graduate students and post doctoral fellows. He is co-founder of 3 private sector companies, one of which is in the area of bioelectromagnetics and presently trades on the Toronto Stock exchange. In addition to serving six years on the BEMS board of directors, Dr. Prato has encouraged the professional development of his many students, including Drs. Jeff Carson, Alex Thomas, Charles Cook, and Cheryl McCreary. In recent years, it has been the students of Dr. Prato’s former students who are presenting at the annual BEMS meeting.
Jeff Carson, Ph.D.
Jeff Carson completed his graduate work in Medical Biophysics at the University of Western Ontario in 1995, where he held a prestigious graduate scholarship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). He published his earliest work on the use of optical methods to observe changes in cellular calcium levels after exposure to magnetic fields from a magnetic resonance imager. He then designed an optical spectroscopy system to enable real-time measurements of these effects. Dr. Carson then spent five years as a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University studying the involvement of radical pair chemistry in the magnetic effect on the peroxidase enzyme system. He constructed an optical spectroscopy system to examine the response of the enzyme in real-time during exposure to magnetic fields. In 2002, Dr. Carson took over leadership of the Bioelectromagnetics Laboratory at Stanford University. In 2003, he returned to the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, where he serves as a Scientist and as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Western Ontario. He has served as a reviewer for the Bioelectromagnetics Journal, Chair of the Student Awards Committee (2005 and 2007), and is currently is an elected Member of the BEMS Society Board and serves as Chairman of the Awards Committee.
Alex W. Thomas, Ph.D.
Alex Thomas entered into the periphery of bioelectromagnetics research in 1991 when he began university as a mature student at the age of 41. In 1995, he joined Dr. Frank Prato and then graduate student Jeff Carson, where he developed specific pulsed magnetic fields with patterns that are “biologically relevant” and presented this work to The Bioelectromagnetics Society for the first time in 1996. Over the years, Dr. Thomas has pushed ahead with his ideas, received his doctorate, recently been awarded a Canadian Institute for Health Research Industry Chair in Bioelectromagnetics, and has co-founded the now public company Fralex Therapeutics Inc. [tsx:fxi] . Dr. Thomas currently leads the Bioelectromagnetics Research Group at Lawson. It is his hope that with properly designed field exposures, beneficial effects can be achieved over time using weak fields with fewer side effects than traditional therapies.
Robert Z. Stodilka, Ph.D., MCCPM
Robert Stodilka’s research interests include medical imaging (especially cardiac and head injury), mathematical modeling of biological systems, mechanisms for transduction of energy into biological responses, and radiological counter-terrorism. He completed his Ph.D. under Dr. Frank Prato at the University of Western Ontario, a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Massachusetts, and served as Head of Radiation Biology research at Defence R&D Canada. Dr. Stodilka is currently a Scientist at the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Canada. His interest in Bioelectromagnetics started in 3rd undergrad at the University of Toronto (EngSci 9T5), and has continued to the present day, which mostly focuses on computational modeling of neuronal networks and their response to electromagnetic stimulation.
Alexandre Legros, Ph.D.
Alexandre Legros’ early passions for karate and fluidity in movement originally lead him to study kinesiology. His Ph.D. studies in France on the effects of power-line frequency magnetic fields on subtle involuntary movements in humans was completed under the supervision of Dr. Anne Beuter, with financial support from the Canadian electricity company Hydro-Québec. As an expert on how standing balance could be affected by magnetic fields, Dr. Thomas was invited to sit as an external examiner for Dr. Legros’ Ph.D. defense. This resulted in Dr. Legros being recruited as a postdoctoral fellow, and later an Associate Scientist in Dr. Thomas’s lab. Dr. Legros’ main research focus is the effects of frequent acute exposures to power-line frequency magnetic fields (60 Hz, up to 3000 μT) on human physiology, neurophysiology, motor control, and cognitive performance. These topics are studied as a collaborative effort between the Lawson BEMS group and the French and Canadian electricity companies Electricité de France and Hydro-Québec.
Yves Bureau, Ph.D.
Yves Bureau’s interest in the biological effects of weak low frequency magnetic fields focuses on research related to epilepsy and mood disorders. Recently, he began studying whether magnetic fields reduce pain by the mechanism of stress-induced analgesia or whether other mechanisms are responsible for the antinociception phenomenon. In addition, he is looking at the effects of magnetic fields on mood disorders using a mouse model to determine if it might ultimately be used as a stand alone treatment or in combination with existing pharmacotherapy to treat disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Charles Cook, Ph.D.
Charles Cook’s early work examined effects of extremely low frequency magnetic field effects upon aspects of perception and physiology. He then completed a Ph.D. in Medical Biophysics with Dr. Frank Prato and Dr. Alex Thomas, focusing on how pulsed magnetic fields affected human brain electrical activity, as measured by electroencephalography (EEG). Charles is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience (University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge Alberta) with Dr. Deborah Saucier, where he is now studying the EEG correlates of spatial navigation. He plans to continue bioelectromagnetics research in the near future.
Donna E. Goldhawk, Ph.D.
Donna Goldhawk obtained her B.Sc. in Biochemistry and Biophysics from the University of California Davis, and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Western Ontario. She undertook postdoctoral training at the Robarts Research Institute in London Ontario, and received a Research Fellowship from the National Cancer Institute of Canada. Dr. Goldhawk joined the Imaging Program at the Lawson in 2006 to provide molecular and cell biology expertise in support of molecular imaging. Her research involves an interdisciplinary collaboration to develop reporter gene expression for molecular MRI.
Lynn Keenliside began as a technician to assist the Imaging and Bioelectro-magnetics groups at the Lawson Health Research Institute to design and build custom apparatus that were not readily available commercially. As part of this work at Lawson, he found a way to compress a whole-body ELF electromagnetic exposure system into a battery operated portable head exposure unit for clinical studies on pain reduction. He has since designed and built in excess of 80 projects involving phantoms, exposure systems, electronic controls, simple robotics, supports and apparatus for animal imaging, and much more.
Dawn Desjardins Holmes, M.Sc.
Dawn Desjardins Holmes began investigating the effects of magnetic fields on mouse behaviour with Dr. Persinger at Laurentian University. She then came to the University of Western Ontario to begin investigating how magnetic field shielding could affect mice with Drs. Frank Prato and Martin Kavaliers. In 2002, she won the Curtis Carl Johnson Memorial Award for the best platform presentation given by a student at the BEMS meeting in Quebec. Today, she is responsible for the day-to-day work of the mu-metal studies.
Julia McKay, 4th year Ph.D.
In 2004, after completing a B.Sc. in Physiology and Psychology, Julia McKay began her M.Sc. with Drs. Thomas and Prato in Medical Biophysics (University of Western Ontario) investigating ELF effects on blood flow and blood pressure. Since then, she has re-classified to a Ph.D., been awarded a 3-year Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Scholarship and an Ontario Graduate Scholarship. At the 2006 BEMS meeting in Cancun, she was awarded the W.G. Adey Memorial Award for excellence in research and clarity of presentation.
John Robertson (M.Sc.), 2nd year Ph.D.
John Robertson came to the Lawson BEMS group with a diverse academic background, including biology and physics, from the University of Toronto. He earned a master’s degree in Medical Biophysics under Drs. Prato and Thomas and is currently working on a Ph.D.. John has won two presentation awards from BEMS conferences (1st place platform in 2005, 3rd place poster in 2007), has held a provincial scholarship (OGS), and currently holds a 3-year national scholarship (NSERC).
Genevieve Albert, 2nd year M.Sc.
Genevieve Albert joined the Lawson BEMS group in 2003 as a volunteer while she completed her B.Sc. in Microbiology & Immunology. In 2006, she began her M.Sc. in Medical Biophysics at UWO comparing DNA damage detected by cytogenetic studies in human lymphocytes before and after ELF magnetic field exposure. At the 2007 BEMS conference in Japan, she was awarded the Curtis Carl Johnson Memorial Award for the 1st place student poster.
Dave McNamee, 2nd year M.Sc.
Dave McNamee joined the BEMS group at Lawson as a M.Sc. candidate in 2006 after volunteering as a research assistant for Dr. Legros the prior summer. His project involves determining effects of electromagnetic field exposure on human cardiovascular parameters, such as heart rate and microcirculation. He won the C. Andrew L. Bassett Memorial Award at the 2007 BEMS conference in Kanazawa Japan. Dave hopes to attend medical school after completing his graduate studies.
Past Graduate Students:
Elena Choleris, Ph.D.
Post doctoral fellowship completed in 2000. She is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Guelph in Ontario studying the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie social behavior in animals.
Cheryl McCreary, Ph.D.
Post doctoral fellowship completed in 2004. Dr. McCreary is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute in Calgary, Canada.
Naomi Shupak, M.Sc.
After graduating with a M.Sc. in Medical Biophysics, Ms. Shupak began Medical School at the University of Toronto.
Prof. Sinerik Ayrapetyan, UNESCO Chair in Life Sciences (Armenia), in collaboration with Institute for Health & the Environment University at Albany, SUNY (USA), recently announced the organization of a UNESCO Seminar on: “Electromagnetic Fields: Mechanisms of action and potential threat as a terrorism agent.” The Workshop is planned for 3-6 November 2008 in Yerevan Armenia.
The primary goal of the proposed Workshop is a multidisciplinary discussion of the data obtained by different laboratories on the mechanisms whereby EMF of various frequencies alter functions of biological systems. They hope to identify possible public health implications, as well as the dangers and potential of use of EMF as a terrorist weapon. The discussions coming from this Workshop have the potential to influence the present policy of the WHO, ICNRP and other international organizations whose mission it is to establish safety levels for human exposure to ELF and RF forms of EMFs. Organizers plan to publish proceedings of the workshop as a volume of the NATO Science Series, and will reflect the current understanding of the mechanisms of action of electromagnetic fields on biological systems, with a focus on cell hydration, human health and possible use as a terrorism agent. Additional information is available at: http://www.biophys.am
Reminder to all BEMS members:
It is time to pay your annual dues! If you have not yet received an invoice, please contact the BEMS office at:
Phone: (301) 663-4252
Fax: (301) 694-4948
Call for Papers: BEMS 30th Annual Meeting in California
The Bioelectromagnetics Society will hold its 30th Annual Meeting June 8-12, 2008 at the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center in San Diego, California, USA. Dr. Michael McLean is the Technical Program Chair and Dr. Robert Cleveland is serving as Vice-Chair of the Technical Program Committee.
Town and Country Resort and Convention Center
500 Hotel Circle No., San Diego, CA 92108
Original papers are solicited for presentation (in English) on the interaction of biological systems with electromagnetic energy from static fields through the visible light frequencies. Areas of interest include, but are not limited to, the following categories: Effects on cells and animal models and cell-free systems; clinical devices; medical applications; high-throughput screening; in vitro studies; in vivo studies; mechanisms of interaction; theoretical and practical modeling; instrumentation and methodology; dosimetry; occupational exposure; epidemiology; and public policy.
The Technical Program will include plenary sessions, platform and poster presentations, workshops, mini-symposia, a student paper competition, and exhibits. Deadline for submitting an abstract for the BEMS Annual Meeting in San Diego is January 13, 2008. Go to http://bems2008.abstractcentral.com/ for further details.
San Diego is California’s second largest and the United States’ seventh largest city. It boasts a citywide population of nearly 1.3 million residents and more than 2.8 million residents countywide. Within its borders of 4,200 sq. miles, San Diego County encompasses 18 incorporated cities and numerous other charming neighborhoods and communities, including downtown’s historic Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy, Coronado, La Jolla, Del Mar, Carlsbad, Escondido, La Mesa, Hillcrest, Barrio Logan, Chula Vista just to name a few.
San Diego is renowned for its idyllic climate, 70 miles of pristine beaches and a dazzling array of world-class family attractions. Popular attractions include the world-famous San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, Sea World San Diego and LEGOLAND California. San Diego offers an expansive variety of things to see and do, appealing to guests of all ages from around the world. With San Diego International Airport only 3 miles northwest of downtown San Diego and the electric Gaslamp Quarter, you can move from jet lagged to jet setting in one quick taxi trip.
Upcoming Milestones in the Bioelectromagnetics Society
2008 will mark the 30th anniversary of our annual meetings. Can you believe that some members have attended every annual meeting since the start? We’d like to celebrate that! In addition, our next newsletter will be the 200th newsletter published by this Society. We’d like to celebrate, too, by recalling some old memories and proposing some new directions! If you have particular recollections of the early days of the Society, or memories of a favorite annual meeting, please send them to email@example.com on or before January 31, 2008 for inclusion in the next newsletter. You may also send suggestions for what you would like to see in future issues. We will publish a collection of the best submissions in the next issue.
BEMS Winter WORKSHOP Agenda Announced
Ewa Czerska, President of the Bioelectromagnetics Society, recently announced the Agenda for the upcoming Winter Workshop and d’Arsonval Award Presentation.
“The Role of Hyperthermia in Cancer Treatment”
The meeting will be held at L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, DC on February 8, 2008. Reservations for lodging associated with this Workshop and d’Arsonval Award presentation can be made via Internet at www.lenfantplazahotel.com or by calling 202-484-1000 ext. 5000 or 800-635-5065. Specify group code BIO027 to get the special meeting rate, if available.
9:00am Opening Remarks: Ewa Czerska
Presentation of 2007 BEMS d’Arsonval Award to Eleanor R. Adair, Ph.D.
10:00am “Latest Breakthroughs in Treatment Planning Tools for Hyperthermia.” Esra Neufeld and Niels Kuster, IT’IS Foundation Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETHZ ETH Zentrum ETZ, Zurich, Switzerland.
10:45am Coffee Break
11:00am “Improving the Effectiveness of Hyperthermia Applicators for Cancer Therapy.” Paul Stauffer, Professor and Director Hyperthermia Physics, Duke University Medical Center Radiation Oncology Dept., Durham, NC.
11:45am Lunch Break (lunch on your own)
1:15pm “Can we optimize the use of heat as a radiation sensitizer in cancerpatients by exploiting the thermoregulatory response of blood vessels in normal tissues surrounding the tumor?” Elizabeth A. Repasky, Ph.D., Department of Immunology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY.
2:00pm “Macromolecular Protein Denaturation and Aggregation Kinetics under Highly Concentrated Conditions.” Raphael C. Lee, MD , ScD, FACS , Professor of Surgery Medicine, Organismal Biology and Anatomy (Biomechanics) Committee on Molecular Medicine Director, Chicago Electrical Trauma Program, Chicago, IL.
2:45pm Coffee Break
3:00pm “Interstitial Microwave Antennas And Arrays For Ablation And Hyperthermia Treatments.” James Lin, Ph.D., Professor, University of Illinois-Chicago (M/C 154) Chicago, IL.
3:45pm “The Influence of pH on Thermoradiotherapy.” Michael D. O’Hara, Ph.D., Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, MD.
The Bioelectromagnetics Society newsletter is published and distributed to all members of the Society. Institutions and libraries may subscribe to the newsletter at an annual cost of $115(USD).
The newsletter serves as a forum for ideas and discussion of issues related to bioelectromagnetics research. Contributions may include news items, meeting reports, short notes on research, book reviews, and relevant items of historical or other interest. All submissions must be signed. While it is understood that contributions by individual authors reflect the views of the contributor, the editor may require that contributing writers submit a statement of affiliation and/or disclosure of possible conflict of interest at the time an article is submitted for consideration. Advertisements included in the newsletter are not to be considered endorsed by the Society.
To submit items for the newsletter, please send electronic files to
or by surface mail to The Bioelectromagnetics Society, 2412 Cobblestone Way, Frederick, MD, 21702-2626 USA. BEMS newsletter editor, Janie Page, is an independent consultant in Oakland, CA. Tel: 415-937-1477.
For other Society business or information, contact Gloria Parsley, Executive Director, Tel: 301-663-4252, Fax: 301-694-4948. BEMS website: www.bioelectromagnetics.org
In early February 2010, members of the BEMS Board of Directors gathered in San Antonio, Texas for the Winter Board meeting. Prior to this, President Michael Murphy welcomed attendees to the BEMS Winter Symposium held at the Directed Energy Bioeffects Division of Brooks City Base in San Antonio.
The Winter Symposium featured short presentations by BEMS board members Tom Vernier, Maria Scarfi, and Andre Pakhomov on their research related to short duration (nanosecond) electromagnetic pulses. Additional presentations were given by Brooks City Base staff members Bennett Ibey, Jonathan Kiel, Stephanie Miller, Jerry Wilmink, and John Ziriax. Attendees then toured the facility.
Despite stormy conditions upon arrival at San Antonio, the Texas sun came out long enough to give attendees and board members (Left to right: Luigi Zeni, Andre Pahkomov, Tom Vernier, Maren Fedrowitz, Phil Chadwick, Maria Scarfi, Janie Page, Carl Blackman, Ann Rajnicek, Dariusz Leszczynski, Jerry Wilmink, Niels Kuster, Andrew Wood, Osamu Fujiwara, Mike Murphy, John d'Andrea, Vijay, Indira Chatterjee, David Black, and Jim Lin) a chance to give a Texan salute (facilitated by President Murphy) to the BEMS membership.
At the Winter Board meeting, board members received committee reports and examined budget issues related to society operations and the costs of holding its annual meeting. Decisions made reflect the board’s efforts to balance solvency of the Society with meeting features that enhance member interactions at the scientific meeting. These decisions include incentives for student participation at the meeting via the continuation of student awards.
In light of concerns expressed during the Davos meeting, the board passed motions that
“Video and audio recording (including flash photography) of any presentation in any technical session is prohibited. No photography of poster or slides is permitted unless explicitly authorized beforehand by the presenter. Access to scientific sessions by the media for the purposes of recording must be authorized in advance by the President of the Society.”
Journal editor Jim Lin reported on his efforts to move the journal to a general science or multidisciplinary category within the publisher’s portfolio to enhance its impact factor.
The board also decided that the student membership designation is no longer valid the first calendar year after a Ph.D. is awarded. Impacted students will be encouraged to upgrade to associate or full membership at that time.