Major publication from Henry Lai and Blake Levitt: “Cellular and Molecular Effects of Non-Ionizing EMFs,” published today in Reviews on Environmental Health.
“The goal was to synthesize a hypothesis on their mechanisms of action.” 47pp. Open access. See the link to the study below
“The way that living cells respond to non-ionizing electromagnetic fields (EMF), including static/extremely-low frequency and radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, fits the pattern of ‘cellular stress response’ – a mechanism manifest at the cellular level intended to preserve the entire organism.”
The ability to detect geomagnetic and electric fields has evolved in living organisms for survival purposes. As complex life forms evolved with Earth’s natural geomagnetic fields, they developed unique cellular mechanisms to sustain life. The proliferation of anthropogenic EMF has introduced novel exposures that interfere with basic biological mechanisms, leading to adverse and beneficial effects. The ‘cellular stress response’ is a universal process central to how EMF affects living systems, and it is essential to better investigate the interactions among different parameters of EMF exposure to prevent harmful effects and achieve beneficial ones.
The argument that “there is no known mechanism” has been used to paralyze changes in public health policy by denying any reported biological effects of EMF below certain thresholds. However, increasing recognition of EMF as a ‘cellular stress response’ via oxidative stress serves to demystify this argument. It is crucial to recognize more subtle effects at cellular levels in exposure standards setting, which is not happening today.
Understanding the biological effects of EMF involves an extremely complex matrix of interacting factors across all cell lines/functions. It is essential for committees and government entities in positions to influence exposure recommendations to be appropriately credentialed in the right disciplines with a proven EMF research track record. There should be a preponderance of committee members with backgrounds in biology, not just physics/engineering, as is the case today.
This paper synthesizes a hypothesis on the mechanisms of action of EMF effects and highlights the importance of appropriate expertise in standards exposure-setting groups. It calls for a more comprehensive EMF public health policy that takes into account the complex matrix of interacting factors across cell lines and functions.
In the ‘cellular stress response’ to EMF exposure, molecular damage repair mechanisms are initiated. These repair processes are complex and involve various molecular pathways and factors. There are three main types of molecular damage repair: protein, DNA, and lipid damage repair.
Protein damage repair primarily involves induction of heat shock proteins (HSPs) such as HSP-60 and HSP-70, which refold damaged proteins. EMF-induced ubiquitin-related proteosome activity has also been reported, breaking down damaged proteins for removal.
DNA damage repair can involve changes in p53, NFκB, and MAPK after EMF exposure. These proteins are related to DNA repair and chromatin stability. The upregulation of DNA repair mechanisms explains the mixed results in DNA damage observed after EMF exposure.
Lipid damage repair focuses on lipid peroxidation in cellular membranes. Although EMF-induced lipid damage repair processes are not well-investigated, up-regulation of cellular glutathione peroxidase has been widely reported.
Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, occurs when molecular damage becomes too extensive and is beyond repair. There are many reports on apoptosis induced by EMF exposure.
EMF exposure can have both detrimental and beneficial effects on the entire system. It has been linked to cancer risk, neurodegenerative diseases, and interactions with other stressors. Depending on the factors such as cell type, duration of exposure, and the characteristics of the EMF, the response can vary.
There are several key considerations to be taken into account when discussing the cellular stress response to EMF exposure:
- Cell proliferation: EMF exposure can trigger apoptosis-induced cell proliferation, leading to tissue regeneration or uncontrolled growth, such as cancer. This may explain the effectiveness of EMF exposure in healing various injuries and diseases.
- Unfolded/misfolded protein response: The unfolded protein response can have adverse consequences in the body and may be triggered by changes in the redox state due to EMF exposure. These processes play important roles in neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, inflammation, and aging.
- Gene expression: Changes in gene expression and function are common after EMF exposure, and these changes can have more significant effects on cellular processes and health than genotoxicity alone. Further research is needed to better understand the mechanisms of biological effects of EMF exposure.
- Cellular calcium and ion channels: Cellular calcium plays a critical role in many cellular processes, but it is not clear whether changes in cellular calcium levels are direct effects of or secondary responses to EMF-triggered mechanisms. More research is needed to understand the role of various calcium channels in response to EMF exposure.
- EMF and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: EMF exposure affects hormones and chemicals involved in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, but the exact mechanisms are not well understood. Free radicals may play a role, and direct tissue exposure may not be necessary for effects to occur.
- Behavioral effects: EMF exposure can lead to changes in arousal and anxiety behaviors, which can affect performance in complex tasks. The relationship between behavioral performance and arousal can be described by the Yerkes-Dodson Function.
- Electromagnetic hypersensitivity: EHS may be related to EMF-induced stress and could be rooted in more physiological cellular biochemical responses. People with EHS may have a limbic system that is hypersensitive to nitric oxide and glucocorticoids and cannot readily adapt or compensate for neurochemical changes.
Understanding the cellular stress response to EMF exposure is crucial in setting exposure guidelines and determining the potential health impacts of EMF exposure.
Living cells respond to non-ionizing electromagnetic fields (EMF) through a pattern known as the ‘cellular stress response.’ This response aims to protect the organism by repairing damage caused by various environmental stressors, such as heat, ionizing radiation, and oxidation. Cellular stress responses triggered by EMF exposure can affect oxidative processes in cells, potentially leading to both harmful and beneficial effects on health, depending on the exposure’s duration and intensity.
The ‘cellular stress response’ concept can explain various observed EMF effects, including nonlinear dose- and time-dependency, increased and decreased cancer and neurodegenerative disease risks, and enhanced nerve regeneration and bone healing. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome (EHS) may be linked to an inappropriate response of the hippocampus/limbic system to EMF, involving glucocorticoids on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
All living beings are complex systems of chemical and electrical activities, and anthropogenic EMFs can disrupt the natural balance of these activities. While most EMF exposures are below the levels of electric shock and tissue heating, they can still have biological and clinical implications, particularly in the context of chronic exposure. Cellular stress responses, while generally beneficial, can reach a point where damage is too extensive and repair impossible, potentially leading to cell death or allowing cells to replicate in a damaged state, as seen in cancer.
Henry Lai EMAIL logo and B. Blake Levitt
From the journal Reviews on Environmental Health
“EMF Exposure: Unveiling the Cellular Stress Response and Its Impact on Our Health”
“The Invisible Threat: How Anthropogenic EMFs Disrupt Our Biological Systems”
“Cracking the Code: Decoding the Cellular Stress Response Triggered by EMF Exposure”
“Electromagnetic Fields: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Effects on Cellular Function”
“EMF and Health: Unraveling the Complex Interactions Between Electromagnetic Fields and Biological Systems”
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