Repacholi M, Buschmann J, Pioli C, Sypniewska R, International Oversight Committee (IOC) members for the Franco-Russian Project. An international project to confirm soviet-era results on immunological and teratological effects of RF field exposure in wistar rats and comments on Grigoriev et al. Bioelectromagnetics. 15 Dec 2010. Ahead of print.
Results of immunological and teratological studies on the effects of radiofrequency (RF) radiation in rats conducted in 1970s-1980’s in the Soviet Union served as a scientific basis for the Soviet and the current Russian exposure limits. These studies were not published in major international journals, and their results raised concern about possible health effects of RF radiation. Therefore, it was decided to verify these results using modern laboratory methods. The confirmation studies were conducted separately by two groups of scientists: one in Moscow, Russia and the other in Bordeaux, France. The World Health Organization set up an International Oversight Committee (IOC) to give advice and oversee the confirmation studies.
This article provides the IOC comments on differences between the results obtained by the two research groups.
The two research teams followed a jointly developed common study protocol.
Results and Interpretation
The French team found no effect of RF exposure on levels of circulating antibodies using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). The Russian team reported an increase in the levels of some antibodies in the serum of RF-exposed rats compared to sham-exposed rats. However, these findings should be interpreted with caution because most of the reported differences were relative to samples with very low optical density. Small variations due to technical aspects of ELISA could affect the results. The Complement fixation assay (CFA) that allows assessing antibodies to undefined (unknown) antigens was performed only by the Russian team. It was agreed that the assay would be repeated by the French group only if the Russian group found significant positive results. There was no effect of RF exposure on the formation of antibodies to liver tissue. However, a maximum response was seen in the formation of antibodies to brain tissue on day 14 after termination of the RF exposure. The Russian group concluded that these findings were close to the findings of the earlier Soviet studies. The IOC pointed out that the CFA protocol involved ranking of the serum samples using a subjective visual scale for determining the antibody titre. Such subjective assessment raised concern about reproducibility of the results. The IOC concluded that the observed differences were within normal experimental error for this method.
The French team reported no significant effect of RF exposure on any maternal or offspring endpoint. In contrast, the Russian team reported an increase in mortality of the offspring of dams receiving (intraperitoneally) serum from RF exposed animals. Interpretation of the Russian results is limited by high mortality (between 35% and 43%) observed in all groups of animals (RF-exposed, sham-exposed and cage control). According to the IOC, no valid conclusion could be reached based on these results.
After a very detailed analysis of both confirmation studies, the IOC concluded that, as a whole, their findings did not provide support for the results of the original Soviet studies. The IOC pointed out some important limitations. In the confirmation studies, the numbers of animals were similar to those used in the Soviet studies, and these numbers were too small to reach firm conclusions. Intraperitoneal injection of serum from RF exposed animals (in the teratological experiments) was irrelevant to human exposures. It was recommended that further studies of these endpoints with appropriate design and well-established modern methods be conducted.