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Mutat Res. 2010 Jan 5;683(1-2):74-83. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2009.10.012.

DNA fragmentation in human fibroblasts under extremely low frequency electromagnetic field exposure.

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  • 1Institute of Biochemistry and Genetics, Department of Biomedicine, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.

Abstract

Extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMFs) were reported to affect DNA integrity in human cells with evidence based on the Comet assay. These findings were heavily debated for two main reasons; the lack of reproducibility, and the absence of a plausible scientific rationale for how EMFs could damage DNA. Starting out from a replication of the relevant experiments, we performed this study to clarify the existence and explore origin and nature of ELF-EMF induced DNA effects. Our data confirm that intermittent (but not continuous) exposure of human primary fibroblasts to a 50 Hz EMF at a flux density of 1 mT induces a slight but significant increase of DNA fragmentation in the Comet assay, and we provide first evidence for this to be caused by the magnetic rather than the electric field. Moreover, we show that EMF-induced responses in the Comet assay are dependent on cell proliferation, suggesting that processes of DNA replication rather than the DNA itself may be affected. Consistently, the Comet effects correlated with a reduction of actively replicating cells and a concomitant increase of apoptotic cells in exposed cultures, whereas a combined Fpg-Comet test failed to produce evidence for a notable contribution of oxidative DNA base damage. Hence, ELF-EMF induced effects in the Comet assay are reproducible under specific conditions and can be explained by minor disturbances in S-phase processes and occasional triggering of apoptosis rather than by the generation of DNA damage.

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PMID:
19896957
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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