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PLoS One. 2014 Mar 3;9(3):e90041. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0090041. eCollection 2014.

Extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields affect transcript levels of neuronal differentiation-related genes in embryonic neural stem cells.

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  • 1Department of Occupational Health, Faculty of Preventive Medicine, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing, People's Republic of China.


Previous studies have reported that extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMF) can affect the processes of brain development, but the underlying mechanism is largely unknown. The proliferation and differentiation of embryonic neural stem cells (eNSCs) is essential for brain development during the gestation period. To date, there is no report about the effects of ELF-EMF on eNSCs. In this paper, we studied the effects of ELF-EMF on the proliferation and differentiation of eNSCs. Primary cultured eNSCs were treated with 50 Hz ELF-EMF; various magnetic intensities and exposure times were applied. Our data showed that there was no significant change in cell proliferation, which was evaluated by cell viability (CCK-8 assay), DNA synthesis (Edu incorporation), average diameter of neurospheres, cell cycle distribution (flow cytometry) and transcript levels of cell cycle related genes (P53, P21 and GADD45 detected by real-time PCR). When eNSCs were induced to differentiation, real-time PCR results showed a down-regulation of Sox2 and up-regulation of Math1, Math3, Ngn1 and Tuj1 mRNA levels after 50 Hz ELF-EMF exposure (2 mT for 3 days), but the percentages of neurons (Tuj1 positive cells) and astrocytes (GFAP positive cells) were not altered when detected by immunofluorescence assay. Although cell proliferation and the percentages of neurons and astrocytes differentiated from eNSCs were not affected by 50 Hz ELF-EMF, the expression of genes regulating neuronal differentiation was altered. In conclusion, our results support that 50 Hz ELF-EMF induce molecular changes during eNSCs differentiation, which might be compensated by post-transcriptional mechanisms to support cellular homeostasis.

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