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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2000 Feb 1;162(3):166-76.

Exposure to 60-Hz magnetic fields and proliferation of human astrocytoma cells in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Health, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, 98105, USA.


Epidemiological studies have suggested that exposure to electric and magnetic fields (EMF) may be associated with an increased incidence of brain tumors, most notably astrocytomas. However, potential cellular or molecular mechanisms involved in these effects of EMF are not known. In this study we investigated whether exposure to 60-Hz sinusoidal magnetic fields (0.3-1.2 G for 3-72 h) would cause proliferation of human astrocytoma cells. Sixty-Hertz magnetic fields (MF) caused a time- and dose-dependent increase in proliferation of astrocytoma cells, measured by (3)H-thymidine incorporation and by flow cytometry, and strongly potentiated the effect of two agonists (the muscarinic agonist carbachol and the phorbol ester PMA). However, MF had no effect on DNA synthesis of rat cortical astrocytes, i.e., of similar, nontransformed cells. To determine the amount of heating induced by MF, temperatures were also recorded in the medium. Both 1.2 G MF and a sham exposure caused a 0.7 degrees C temperature increase in the medium; however, (3)H-thymidine incorporation induced by sham exposure was significantly less than that caused by MF. GF 109203X, a rather specific protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor, and down-regulation of PKC inhibited the effect of MF on basal and on agonist-stimulated (3)H-thymidine incorporation. These data indicate that MF can increase the proliferation of human astrocytoma cells and strongly potentiate the effects of two agonists. These findings may provide a biological basis for the observed epidemiological associations between MF exposure and brain tumors.

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