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Cells haywire in electromagnetic field?

Cells haywire in electromagnetic field?

Electromagnetic fields may interfere with the electrical chitchat between cells in the body -- and cooperate with carcinogens to disrupt normal regulation of cell growth and promote cancer development, says W. Ross Adey of Loma Linda (Calif.) University. By studying the way cells "whisper together" using electrical messages, Adey and his co-workers are trying to explain why some studies link certain types of cancer to electromagnetic exposure (SN: 2/14/87, p.107). Because the signals passed between cells are essential for regulating cell growth, altering these signals may result in the out-of-control growth of cancer, says Adey.

Across the thin membranes surrounding cells is an electrical gradient called the membrane potential. With a strength of about 0.1 volt (the equivalent of 200,000 volts per inch), the membrane potential acts as an electrical barrier against the outward and inward flow of signals. Receptors on cell surfaces are thus needed to facilitate message transfer across membranes. In addition, says Adey, the "little fluid gutters" between cells have their own electrical gradients. Based on his own studies and those of other researchers, Adey concludes that these electrical gradients may be changed by certain powerline and microwave fields. The negatively charged surface receptors that permit day-to-day signal transfer are sensitive to minute changes in both electrical and chemical signals, says Adey.

Changes caused by electromagnetic fields are not them selves the first step in cancer, says Adey, who uses the standard initiation-promotion model of cancer to explain how the fields and chemical carcinogens may work together. He says that carcinogens probably serve as initiators by damaging cellular DNA, but that disorganized cell growth in tumor formation is prompted by later events -- which include exposure to electromagnetic fields. According to Adey, the Loma Linda research takes a different approach to cancer formation by studying "atomic rather than molecular levels of tissue organization and physical rather than chemical processes."
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Title Annotation:reseach on relationship between electromagnetism and cancer
Author:Edwards, Diane D.
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 2, 1988
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