Transient DNA damage induced by high-frequency electromagnetic fields (GSM 1.8 GHz) in the human trophoblast HTR-8/SVneo cell line evaluated with the alkaline comet

“Our data suggest that HF-EMF with a carrier frequency and modulation scheme typical of the GSM signal may affect the DNA integrity.”


Franzellitti S1, Valbonesi P, Ciancaglini N, Biondi C, Contin A, Bersani F, Fabbri E.


One of the most controversial issue regarding high-frequency electromagnetic fields (HF-EMF) is their putative capacity to affect DNA integrity. This is of particular concern due to the increasing use of HF-EMF in communication technologies, including mobile phones. Although epidemiological studies report no detrimental effects on human health, the possible disturbance generated by HF-EMF on cell physiology remains controversial. In addition, the question remains as to whether cells are able to compensate their potential effects. We have previously reported that a 1-h exposure to amplitude-modulated 1.8 GHz sinusoidal waves (GSM-217 Hz, SAR=2 W/kg) largely used in mobile telephony did not cause increased levels of primary DNA damage in human trophoblast HTR-8/SVneo cells. Nevertheless, further investigations on trophoblast cell responses after exposure to GSM signals of different types and durations were considered of interest. In the present work, HTR-8/SVneo cells were exposed for 4, 16 or 24h to 1.8 GHz continuous wave (CW) and different GSM signals, namely GSM-217 Hz and GSM-Talk (intermittent exposure: 5 min field on, 10 min field off). The alkaline comet assay was used to evaluate primary DNA damages and/or strand breaks due to uncompleted repair processes in HF-EMF exposed samples. The amplitude-modulated signals GSM-217 Hz and GSM-Talk induced a significant increase in comet parameters in trophoblast cells after 16 and 24h of exposure, while the un-modulated CW was ineffective. However, alterations were rapidly recovered and the DNA integrity of HF-EMF exposed cells was similar to that of sham-exposed cells within 2h of recovery in the absence irradiation. Our data suggest that HF-EMF with a carrier frequency and modulation scheme typical of the GSM signal may affect the DNA integrity.

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