Thorlin, T., Rouquette, J.-M., Hamnerius, Y., Hansson, E., Persson, M., Björklund, U., Rosengren, L., Rönnbäck, L. and Persson, M. Exposure of Cultured Astroglial and Microglial Brain Cells to 900 MHz Microwave Radiation. Radiat. Res. 166, 409–421 (2006).
The rapid rise in the use of mobile communications has raised concerns about health issues related to low-level microwave radiation. The head and brain are usually the most exposed targets in mobile phone users. In the brain, two types of glial cells, the astroglial and the microglial cells, are interesting in the context of biological effects from microwave exposure. These cells are widely distributed in the brain and are directly involved in the response to brain damage as well as in the development of brain cancer. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether 900 MHz radiation could affect these two different glial cell types in culture by studying markers for damage-related processes in the cells. Primary cultures enriched in astroglial cells were exposed to 900 MHz microwave radiation in a temperature-controlled exposure system at specific absorption rates (SARs) of 3 W/kg GSM modulated wave (mw) for 4, 8 and 24 h or 27 W/kg continuous wave (cw) for 24 h, and the release into the extracellular medium of the two pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin 6 (Il6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (Tnfa) was analyzed. In addition, levels of the astroglial cell-specific reactive marker glial fibrillary acidic protein (Gfap), whose expression dynamics is different from that of cytokines, were measured in astroglial cultures and in astroglial cell-conditioned cell culture medium at SARs of 27 and 54 W/kg (cw) for 4 or 24 h. No significant differences could be detected for any of the parameters studied at any time and for any of the radiation characteristics. Total protein levels remained constant during the experiments. Microglial cell cultures were exposed to 900 MHz radiation at an SAR of 3 W/kg (mw) for 8 h, and Il6, Tnfa, total protein and the microglial reactivity marker ED-1 (a macrophage activation antigen) were measured. No significant differences were found. The morphology of the cultured astroglial cells and microglia was studied and appeared to be unaffected by microwave irradiation. Thus this study does not provide evidence for any effect of the microwave radiation used on damage-related factors in glial cells in culture.