Workpackage 5

WP5: Cellular/molecular studies

Led by Isabelle Lagroye (UB1)
Collaborating institutions: UEF

Currently, no mechanism has been established by which RF or IF fields might cause health effects at the low power levels relevant to their applications (including wireless communications, EAS, and RFID), although higher levels are known to cause heating (RF) or stimulation of excitable cells (IF). To properly study the mechanisms of weak field effects, well-established reproducible effects in cell and molecular models are needed.
Few biological studies have been performed in the IF range. By contrast, many studies have been performed with RF but the lack of consistency in methods and reporting, problems with the replication of results, and a lack of understanding of their possible health consequences in humans limit the conclusions that can be drawn. There is thus a need to search for low-level effects on cell culture models using novel approaches, as recommended by WHO in its recent research agendas.


To better understand the mechanisms of the biological effects of RF and IF fields, in-vitro experiments will be conducted at the cellular and molecular levels using several novel approaches. In-vitro investigations will be complementary to in-vivo experiments, providing insights at the molecular and subcellular levels.

Proposed work

In WP5, modern spectroscopic and electrochemical methods will be used to observe in real time the behaviour of living matter under IF and RF fields exposure. This approach is a novel strategy in bioelectromagnetics, and will allow the systematic scanning for biologically active RF exposure parameters. These methods, together with metabonomics and genomic instability assays, will provide a basis for a systems biology approach to gain insights into mechanisms. The experimental models will include immune and brain cells, in line with the major objectives of GERoNiMO, which include evaluation of the role of IF and RF fields in (brain) cancer, behavioural effects and neurodegenerative diseases.
Joint effects with genotoxic chemicals will be tested for induction of genomic instability, and other endpoints in case there are no effects of IF or RF field exposure alone.
IF fields at frequencies of 7.5 kHz and 13.56 MHz will be used, corresponding to exposure from EAS devices and many RFID devices, respectively. This choice of frequencies will also help to cover the two modes of IF field interactions with biological matter: at 7.5 kHz, the dominant coupling mechanism is induced currents while at 13.56 MHz dielectric relaxation is also occurring. RF fields to be used will have different modulations (e.g., CW, GSM, UMTS, WiMAX, LTE) at carrier frequencies ranging from 1800 to 3500 MHz.