Members of the BEMS Board of Directors and officials from the European BioElectromagnetics Association (EBEA) met in Zurich February 5-7, 2009.
The meeting coordination was flawlessly done by the recently appointed scientific coordinator at the Foundation for Research on Information Technologies in Society (IT’IS), Iris Szankowski, in conjunction with ASI, Inc.
The meeting on February 5th focused on the details and budget of the upcoming BioEM 2009 Joint Meeting. Attendees included the Executive Boards of each society.
On February 6th, members of both societies jointly met at the IT’IS, hosted by BEMS President and IT’IS Director, Niels Kuster. IT’IS was established in 1999 as a nonprofit research spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule or ETH). Key area of interest at the foundation are electromagnetic sensor technologies, computational electromagnetics, dosimetry, basic research related to health risks evaluations, MR safety of implants, health support systems, and the newest activities in computational physics for biology, physiology and medicine including cancer treatments, blood brain barrier modeling, etc.
The meeting began with two parallel brainstorming sessions on the joint futures of the BEMS and EBEA societies. At the conclusion of these sessions, the meeting progressed to a tour of the research facilities at the foundation. Presentations were made by:
Ezra Neufeld described the foundation’s work in computational physics for biology, physiology and medicine focusing on tissue and vascular simulations and studies of the use of hyperthermia to create preferential necrosis for tumor cells. Work is underway to get a better deposition of electromagnetic energy where it is needed rather than in tissues with better conductivity. This includes the ability to reoptimize the field profiles using CT/MR based patient models including feedback from the patient. Neufeld also noted the Virtual Family computational models developed at IT’IS in conjunction with FDA for scientific research that have become familiar to those attending BEMS annual meetings.
Fin Bomholt, of Schmid & Partner Engineering AG (SPEAG), a major sponsor of the research at IT’IS, demonstrated the latest time-domain sensor technologies.
Manuel Murbach provided an overview of the foundation’s specialized exposure setting ranging in size from small in vitro coils to large enclosures suitable for rodent and mammal exposure.
Myles Capstick demonstrated the largest of these exposure chambers which includes a new approach for stirring the signal reflections to create a (time averaged) homogeneous exposure (time averaged) of all animals.
Sven Kuhn described testing underway related to MRI safety of implants. By better understanding how these devices perform under MRI exposure, implants can be designed such that they will not cause internal RF burns during standard MRI scans or fail due to electromagnetic inference.
Sven Kuhn (far right) demonstrates testing equipment to Board members (L to R) Andrei Pahkomov, Ewa Czerska, and Indira Chaterjee.
Members of both societies then rode Europe’s steepest normal gauge adhesion (not cable) railway to Uetliberg, a mountain just outside of Zurich, to bring together the results of the earlier brainstorming sessions. Following this, they enjoyed some of the fondue for which Switzerland is appropriately famous.
Society presidents Niels Kuster (BEMS) and Carmela Marino (EBEA) join Gloria Parsley, BioEM2009 Meeting Organizer, Dariusz Leszczynski, BioEM2009 Co-Chair, Ewa Czerska, BEMS Past President, and Lynn Plitt, BEMS.
Minutes of the February 7th Board of Directors meeting will be published in a later issue of the newsletter.
ICNIRP is glad to inform you about its most recent publication, Risk Factors for Childhood Leukemia, Proceedings of an International Workshop, 5-7 May 2008, Berlin, Germany issued in Radiation Protection Dosimetry 132 (2). To view the papers, go to the Journal’s website http://rpd.oxfordjournals.org/content/vol132/issue2/index.dtl
In virtually every society, children are valued and given high priority for protection. Using common scientific resources to address one of the major diseases of childhood is reasonable as a means to prevent the disease. The workshop made a contribution toward pursuing the causes of childhood leukemias.
Leukemia contributes about 1/3 of all cancers in children below the age of fifteen. This heterogeneous, multi-factorial disease of the hematopoietic system accounts for the largest proportion of all cancers in this age group, with acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL) being the most common subtype. Incidence rates show a slight increase with time.
There is increasing evidence that a first damaging event to the hematopoietic stem cells (1st hit) occurs during the prenatal phase and one or more postnatal hits are needed to transform the pre-leukemic clones into leukemia cells. In parallel to the body of research investigating the different indicators of molecular damage, therapeutic procedures have been continually developed andimproved. Today individually optimized therapeutic plans for childhood ALL patients are available which result in a survival rate of more than 80%.
The aim of the international workshop, jointly organized by ICNIRP, WHO and the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), was to bring together experts from different disciplines to summarize the current knowledge about the role of genetic and environmental risk factors for childhood leukemia. It became clear that, in spite of the many available epidemiological studies, knowledge about the causes of leukemia is still rather incomplete and will require large concerted efforts worldwide.
See all workshop information at http://www.icnirp.org/WChildhoodLeukemia.htm.
Board member Chiyoji Ohkubo recently assumed the position of Director of the newly established Japan EMF Information Center (JEIC) as part of the Japan Electrical Safety and Environment Technology Laboratories. This center was created to “facilitate the communication between industry, news media, and [the] general population” about risk analyses of EMF scientific information. Its founding is based on the results and recommendations of the World Health Organization’s International EMF Project as well as the Working Group of Electric Power Facility EMF Policy in Japan. The JEIC will focus on collecting, translating, and publishing EMF information published in Japan and throughout the world in an easily accessed form that allows experts to analyze the information for risk studies. They plan to promote lecture, meetings, and symposia on EMF topics, as well as developing web and print information on EMF issues. They also plan to set up a hotline for consulting on individual issues.
An earlier Working Group of Electric Power Facility EMF Policy, founded by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, adopted the ICNIRP guidelines on field exposure (100 microTesla for 50 Hz fields and 83 microTesla for 60Hz fields). In addition, they called for “establishment of a neutral and permanent EMF information center designed to promote risk communication… to eliminate problems arising from people incorrectly understanding the possible health effects from exposure to magnetic fields.”
Chiyoji Ohkubo worked as a Scientist at the WHO project from April 2005 through March 2007, and currently serves as visiting professor at Meiji Pharmaceutical University. He chairs the Research Committee on the Possible Health Effect of Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Fields at Japan’s Ministory of Internal Affairs and Communications, and is the former Director of the Department of Environmental Health at Japan’s National Institute of Public Health.
Dr. Vijayalaxmi, known to most members as Vijay, has been serving as the Society’s Treasurer for almost three years. She began her academic career in southern India studying the genetic effects of irradiated wheat. This work was widely reported in academic, scientific and political circles in India, leading to meetings with Mrs. Indira Gandhi, late Prime Minister of India, and invitations to testify before an Australian Parliamentary Committee. She spoke at a special session at the World Health Organization, and she appeared on Television documentaries produced in Australia, Britain, Denmark and Japan. Later she received a post doctoral fellowship for advanced training in cytogenetics from the World Health Organization in Scotland and Holland.
Since then, she has worked on a variety of studies of environmental mutagens and human inherited diseases, at the British Medical Research Council’s Human Genetics Unit (Scotland), New York Blood Center, University of Heidelberg (Germany), and the Swiss Federal Radiation Research Institute, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York), and a genetic toxicology testing lab in North Carolina. In 1994, she moved to the University of Texas Health Science Center to begin examining the bioeffects of non-ionizing radiation.
Someone recently said “if you’ve come prepared to defend a position, you’re not here for a discussion.” In the spirit of a continuing discussion, with a goal of productive change within the society rather than the defense of entrenched positions, I offer this response to the recent column by President Niels Kuster that was followed by an article coauthored by Former Presidents Mays Swicord and Asher Sheppard, and by Professor Quirino Balzano.
I served as President of this Society in 1991, immediately before Mays Swicord. In my address to the Annual Business Meeting during my term, and in a subsequent Presidents’ column (see BEMS NL # 98 [Jan/Feb 1991], and BEMS NL #101 [Jul/Aug 1991]), I described what I thought were two cultures in the Society, one based in biological sciences and the other in the physical sciences, that had different cultural training in scientific research. I expressed hope that scientists from both cultures would acknowledge their differences and use them synergistically to advance the science.
Since many of you may not have those back issues of the newsletter, here is the relevant text from issue #98:
“Listening to one recent discussion, I sensed an exaggerated juxtaposition of the conflicting reference frames ingrained in the physical scientists and biologists. For physical scientists, an unusual or unexpected result indicates that an artifact probably occurred, the results need to be discarded, and the experiment repeated. When repeat experiments produce the same result, a more conscious effort is placed on finding the cause of the result. In many cases, the results are never published even if no artifact can be found, unless the result can be explained in terms of current knowledge of physical mechanisms. This hesitation to publish is imposed by traditions for rules of evidence and methodological expectations of physical scientists.”
“In contrast, although biologists carefully examine possible causes of artifact when unexpected results are observed, if the results hold up upon replication and close scrutiny, there is a communal acceptance to publish. Perhaps there is no disciplinary taboo against publishing such findings because it is recognized that there are many unknowns in biological sciences; surprises are expected.”
My reference frame was established in a biophysics graduate school program in the 1960s led by Ernest Pollard that was funded by NASA to identify the environmental extremes under which life could exist. With a bachelor’s degree in physics, I was introduced to experimental biology for the first time in graduate school. My first semester microbiology course opened my eyes to the amazing sensitivity and diversity in biological responses, particularly for the role of mutations in microbial societies. This enlightenment continued as I learned more about biology. Although I studied the effects of ionizing radiation on DNA, I remember being asked in one of my oral exams to describe how microbial life could exist and thrive in the hotsprings in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA, when the conditions are so detrimental to life. In preparation for that exam, I had read that week’s Science magazine that contained a lead article describing the latest findings that answered that question, namely, the microbes had increased G-C content in their DNA (three hydrogen bonds for those bases) and increased di-sulphide bonds in proteins, which made those molecules more resistant to the normally denaturing conditions in the hotsprings; there were other changes as well. This ability to adapt to harsh thermal and high salt environments was not understood before, but the evidence of the existence of living microbes in that environment had by that time been accepted.
It is this biological mindset of discovery, verification and investigation that has guided the research I’ve subsequently conducted, by being observant of unusual or unexpected biological responses, particularly patterns that give clues to as yet undiscovered mechanistic phenomena. Once repeatable responses are obtained that were not caused by obvious factors, it is necessary to characterize the treatment conditions and physiological state under which the biological response occurs. With this more complete information, it may be possible to make hypothesizes regarding possible, additional uncontrolled variables (in one case, the possible influence of the static magnetic field) that might provide more clues for theoreticians (both in physical and biological reference frames) to speculate on the underlying bases for the observed responses and ultimately to determine underlying modes of action and eventually mechanisms of action.
The value in determining all the parameters, biological and physical, that can influence a biological process is that scientists would then be guided by the need to describe and control those parameters in order to produce results that stand a chance of being reproduced by scientists in other locations using different equipment. Otherwise, without replication the scientific debate would degenerate into observations analogous to those of the proverbial 6 blind people allowed to touch an elephant on different parts of its anatomy and exclaiming to the world what an elephant “looks” like.
I read an article describing a rebellion recently launched in science education, with the support of the US National Science Foundation, to change how students learn about how science works. The article notes that traditional education holds that all scientific experimentation is required to follow the classical scientific method (typically taught as a 4 or 5 step recipe) to produce irrefutable results. Two sentences in the article caught my eye: “ … science cannot be oversimplified to make a good story. Data that get in the way of neat conclusions cannot simply be wiped away.” The website developed by this group, www.understandingscience. org, calls this approach “discovery science,” and stresses the importance, especially for scientists in training, of this iterative, dynamic process, as an essential component in scientific research. Their emphasis is on genuine awe and inspiration at observing the unexpected and on personal growth that comes with that experience.
On reflection, I’ve realized that there is now another division in the Society, beyond the one I identified in 1991, which we still see. This second division is between the culture of discovery science and the culture of classical science. This division is prevalent not just in the Society, but also more widely in scientific studies in general. For example, note the recent US National Academy Science report on future research needs in bioelectromagnetics. This report’s conclusions do not acknowledge critical clues offered by series of independent, published reports that don’t fit neat conclusions, such as weak field effects. Since this NAS report had a substantial input from European scientists, the problem is not just one that exists in the US. In fact, much in vitro and in vivo research is no longer funded in the bioelectromagnetics area in spite of intriguing published effects that practically beg to be further explored.
The outcome of this trend is to denigrate and thus deny funding to discovery science. I remember the excitement I felt in graduate school to be allowed to perform discovery discovery science, that is, to follow my intuition to explore the treatment and response spaces surrounding a process to understand them better so that I would be able to be more focused and efficient in the project I was doing. Our Society has greatly benefited from discovery-based research, as is attested to by the d’Arsonval awards given to Dr. Ross Adey and to Dr. Nancy Wertheimer for their discovery science accomplishments. The freedom to perform discovery-based research has been essentially lost in the current research funding and management paradigms.
I propose that another benefit of discovery science is that it can provide the basis to get out of this muddle we see in bioelectromagnetics research with respect to acceptance of low-intensity biological effects and perhaps in the broader scientific research enterprise as well. Once it is acknowledged that there are biological responses to EMF that cannot be explained by current modes or mechanisms of action, then there is hope that representatives from both sides can meet on an equal footing and with joint respect to devise ways to investigate the phenomena.
The 2010 Annual Meeting of BEMS will take place in Seoul, South Korea. I have been named as the Chair of the Technical Program Committee (TPC). Members of the TPC (listed below) been approved by the BEMS Board of Directors and nearly all members have confirmed their participation:
- Dariusz Leszczynski, Finland, email@example.com; Chair of the TPC
- (to be confirmed) Vitas Anderson, Australia;firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Carl Blackman, USA; email@example.com;
- Myles Capstick, Switzerland; firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Jeffrey Carson, Canada; email@example.com;
- Rodney Croft, Australia; RCroft@groupwise.swin.edu.au;
- Maria Feychting, Sweden; Maria.Feychting@ki.se;
- Seung-Cheol Hong, Korea; firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Nam Kim, Korea; email@example.com;
- Jae-Seon Lee, Korea; firstname.lastname@example.org;
- James McNamee, Canada; email@example.com;
- (to be confirmed) Georg Neubauer, Austria; firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Andrei Pakhomov, USA; email@example.com;
- Joachim Schuz, Denmark; firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Alex Thomas, Canada; email@example.com;
- Shoogo Ueno, Japan; firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Zhengping Xu, China; email@example.com
- Ewa Czerska, USA (ex officio: Past President); firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Niels Kuster, Switzerland (ex officio: President); email@example.com;
- Michael Murphy, USA (ex officio, President Elect); firstname.lastname@example.org;
At this time, I ask all BEMS members to send me your ideas about topics and speakers you would be interested in seeing for the:
- Plenary sessions
- Plenary Topic in focus sessions (designed to present two opposite views on the same problem followed by long moderated discussion)
- Tutorial sessions that review in brief recent progress in various areas of bioelectromagnetics (non plenary sessions).
Also, any ideas to make the meeting more attractive and appealing to the broad bioelectromagnetics community are also welcome. With your proposals, please include a brief justification. The deadline is April 30, 2009. After the deadline I will compile all the ideas and send them to the TPC members so that we can discuss them at the TPC meeting in Davos in June 2009.
I hope to hear from you soon!
Chair of the TPC BEMS 2010
Site visit in Seoul by TPC members (from left) Dariusz Leszczynski, Jae-Seon Lee, Gloria Parsley and Joachim Schuz.
Dariusz Leszczynski, TPC for BEMS 2010 and Nam Kim, Local Organizing Chair for BEMS 2010.
Traditional Korean entertainment
Nam Kim is a professor at the Chungbuk National University School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, specializing in dosimetry and human hazards from EMF, with special interests in specific absorption rate (SAR) measurement and in the design of mobile phone antennae for reduced SAR. He is presently supervising four Ph.D. students and six Master’s degree students.
He and his collegues, pictured left to right below, are eager to welcome you to the 2010 Bioelectromagnetics Society meeting in Seoul, Korea.
- Tai Young Kim, General Manager of the Construction Engineering Team in the Transmission Construction Department of Korea Electric Power Department
- You-sil Lee, Korea Institute of Radiology and Medical Science
- Nam Kim, Professor at Chungbuk National University
- Yoon-Won Kim, Hallym University
- Seok Hwan Jeon, Construction Engineering Team in the Transmission Construction Department of Korea Electric Power Corporation
Coming to Davos: June 14-19, 2009
This year’s joint meeting with the European Bioelectromagnetic Association (EBEA) in Davos, Switzerland promises to be an especially interesting time. Featuring four plenary sessions looking at RF-EMF human and epidemiology (chaired by Joachim Schutz), MRI safety (chaired by W. Kainz), new directions in bioelectromagnetics (such as nanoparticles), and a specially selected Hot Topic (chaired by current BEMS president, Niels Kuster), the meeting will also host special focus sessions on EMF interaction mechanisms, RF-EMF and the bloodbrain barrier, and EM cancer therapy. Tutorial sessions are also planned in such diverse topics as biofilms, medical imaging, RF safety standards, medical applications of fields, deep brain stimulation, and the preservation of art with fields.
Make plans now to attend this important joint meeting. The closest international airport is in Zurich (ZRH). From there, take a train that begins in the airport shopping area, a short walk from either of the airport terminals, to the downtown Zurich main station, Lanquart. Trains depart from Zurich’s main station to the Davos Platz station every hour. Additional details about lodging options can be found on the conference website: http://bioem2009.org/hotels/
PRESIDENT’S COLUMN: Transforming BEMS for the Future: In Search of the Next Frontier
In lieu of the traditional winter workshop, the BEMS Board of Directors and several EBEA Council Members gathered in Zurich on February 6, 2009 for an intensive day of brainstorming and discussions to examine the critical challenges facing our Society and to explore strategies for enhancing its future. After 30 years of aspiring to be the premier Society to promote innovation, development, implementation, and communication of bioelectromagnetics in engineering, biology, medicine and related fields, it has become increasingly evident that the Society must revitalize and redefine itself to keep pace with the unprecedented array of global scientific, technological, economic and political changes. The goal was to identify the current challenges/issues, to begin defining the characteristics of a more vital, productive society and to begin developing an actionable leadership scheme for achieving this future
Many challenges/issues were identified and ideas/solutions were proposed, criticized and debated in an open and constructive way. The following briefly highlights my personal synthesis of some of the conclusions reached after the lively and intensive discussions.
- The founding BEMS members are slowly retiring. It is a challenge for any organization to maintain its dedication to promoting the innovative and inclusive ideals of its founders; however, it is also a chance to positively nurture an intergenerational dynamic while incorporating current needs in these changing times.
- Even though BEMS is an international Society, it is still perceived as a U.S. oriented society. This perception makes it difficult to unify our international and multidisciplinary interests under one umbrella.
- The Society’s archaic office management structure must be revamped to operate more efficiently and cost effectively. An electronic administration must be implemented (i.e., electronic correspondence and processing, no more fax/telephone) and the website must be completely overhauled to provide a modern, informative and interactive medium for members and the public alike.
- The polarized discourse within our society seems to be driven by special interest agendas where there is an unfavorable and increasing imbalance between policy makers and researchers who aspire to stimulate sound science.
- Large research groups focusing on BEMS related topics are decreasing. Such groups with long-term research agendas are vital to the continued growth and implementation of bioelectromagnetic research.
- Funding from the wireless industry has declined significantly in recent years and government funding is rapidly dwindling as well. Although emerging technologies such as terahertz applications are fueling new research interests, it is unlikely that they will be able to generate the same amount of research funding.
- Replication studies do not offer a viable or attractive career path for young researchers since it is difficult to build a career on negative findings. False positive findings can end a career much faster than in other fields.
- The shift in focus to medical applications has proven to be more difficult than anticipated. Many of the specialized fields such as MRI, cancer therapy, etc. are already represented by their own societies that are larger and more accommodating than BEMS. Although BEMS is the ideal organization to unify these emerging research fields, it cannot provide the necessary framework to meet the needs of these groups in view of our current structural problems. Additionally, our fixed positions on many vital issues do not provide the interactive and flexible academic environment necessary to effectively explore emerging fields.
- The current global economic downturn will hinder any proactive implementation strategies within the Society and negatively affect all aspects of scientific research in general.
In view of these critical challenges, BEMS will have to transform itself into a more dynamic, more modern, more flexible and cost-effective society. The Society will retain its scientific focus on its core competence of risk assessment related research while providing a framework by which other groups interested in emerging research can achieve their goals within BEMS. At the same time, we must explore and expand dynamic partnerships with other societies, e.g., thermal medicine, etc. The vision is one of a truly international, interdisciplinary and sustainable research organization primarily serving the needs of all researchers from different world regions and driven by a common interest in the science, technology and application of electromagnetic fields in engineering, medicine, biology and related fields. The importance of this effort is underscored by the fact that BEMS and Bioelectromagnetics have become an indispensable platform for progress and communication in the field of bioelectromagnetics.
A special meeting of an enlarged Long-Range Planning Committee that also includes several EBEA members will be held in Davos prior to the Joint Meeting to develop and propose a strategic plan to address these issues and foster continued innovation, research and development in bioelectromagnetics during these rapidly changing times. Regardless of external changes, internal changes must first be confronted before erosion occurs within our society. I invite everyone to voice their opinion in the Newsletter or by email to our board members or to me. It is our responsibility to assure that BEMS has a glorious future by making the next qualitative leap forward together.
As we go to press, we learn of the death of V. V. Lednev, whose extension of an atomic spectroscopy model began a long series of efforts to find mathematical models to describe the mechanisms behind observed effects from magnetic fields on biological systems. While we gather further details, we invite BEMS members with remembrances of his life, his work, and how they impacted bioelectromagnetics, to send them to BEMSnewsletter@gmail.com prior to 17 April 2009 for publication in conjunction with his obituary (to appear in the March/April 2009 newsletter).