Hao Y, Yang X, Chen C, Yuan-Wang, Wang X, Li M, Yu Z.  STAT3 signalling pathway is involved in the activation of microglia induced by 2.45 GHz electromagnetic fields.  Int. J. Radiat. Biol.  86(1): 27-36, 2010.

The proliferation of microwave ovens, wireless networks and cellular phones has raised public health concerns about exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs).  It is believed that exposure to EMF activates chronic inflammation in the brain and can trigger neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Multiple Sclerosis. Normally, a protective response against viruses, bacteria and injuries, inflammation can also have a damaging effect on neurons, depending on which pathways are activated. Exposure to EMF is believed to trigger and perpetuate inflammation through specific pathways inside the cell, one of which involves a molecule known as STAT3. When this molecule is expressed at high levels, it is an indicator for neurological damage and certain types of brain injury. This paper investigates the reaction of brain cells involved in inflammation after EMF exposure.

The objective of this study was to determine the effects of electromagnetic fields exposure (2.45 GHz) on inflammatory cells found in the brain.

Two sets of mouse brain cells involved in inflammation were used in this study.  The fist set was placed in a Petri dish and exposed to 2.45 GHz radiofrequency field (RF) radiation for 20 minutes. The second set was also placed in a Petri dish but it was not exposed to any RF radiation. The researchers compared the inflammatory response of the each set of cells to see whether or not the STAT3 molecules in the cells were activated.

The cells that were exposed to EMF showed increased levels of inflammatory proteins including STAT3 compared to those that were not exposed to RF radiation. 

Interpretation and Limitations
The authors believe that at a certain level of EMF exposure, the STAT3 molecule could in fact act as a switch, changing the cell response from protective to damaging. Further study is required to clearly define the role of this pathway on the onset of neurodegenerative disease.  The study itself was limited by the fact that the cells were in a Petri dish and that mouse cells were used instead of human cells. A live animal model would be more convincing in showing the direct effect, whether protective or damaging, that inflammatory cells can have on the surrounding neuronal environment.

This study confirms that EMF exposure (2.45 GHz) does indeed activate inflammatory cells in the brain through a signalling pathway involving the STAT3 molecule.

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