Researchers at the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz, Germany recently revealed in the journal Scientific Reports the finding that low-frequency magnetic fields do not have a detrimental effect or aggravate the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS in mice. The study is entitled “Low-frequency magnetic fields do not aggravate disease in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.”
Low-frequency magnetic fields such as the ones created by overhead power lines are seen as a potential environmental health risk, having been classified by the World Health Organization as possibly carcinogenic. Epidemiological studies have suggested that these low-frequency magnetic fields may also promote neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), both disabling disorders that affect different neurons. While neurons in the cortex and the hippocampus primarily degenerate in Alzheimer’s disease, leading to the loss of mental function, motor neurons of the motor cortex, the brain stem and spinal cord are affected in ALS, contributing to the loss of control of voluntary muscles like the ones related to movement, speaking, eating, and even breathing. The causes of age-related neurodegenerative disorders are poorly understood, but genetic predisposition, metabolism alterations and environmental factors have all been proposed to be linked to neurodegenerative diseases.
“At present, there is an extensive debate among the scientific community about how low-frequency magnetic fields might influence cell function at the molecular level,” said the study’s senior author Dr. Albrecht Clement in a news release. “To our knowledge, no comprehensive study has been conducted so far to investigate the long-term effects of these fields on the onset of disease symptoms and the progression of both diseases under controlled conditions.”
The research team conducted a comprehensive analysis to determine if long-term continuous exposure to low-frequency magnetic fields (50 Hz, 1 mT) has an effect in disease progression using rodent models of ALS and Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers found that Alzheimer’s mice models exposed to low-frequency magnetic fields for 16 months had no aggravated learning deficits in comparison to mice not exposed. Similarly, ALS mice models had no alteration in terms of disease onset and survival rate upon exposure for 8 to 10 months. Biochemical analysis for specific proteins, oxidative damage and glial activation associated with these neurodegenerative disorders also suggested that exposure to low-frequency magnetic fields does not have an impact in the cellular processes linked to the pathogenesis of ALS or Alzheimer’s disease. The inflammatory response that occurs in the nervous system in both diseases was also not affected by exposure to the magnetic fields.
The research team concluded that they were unable to find any evidence that low-frequency magnetic fields can induce exacerbation or accelerate disease progression in relevant mouse models of ALS and Alzheimer’s disease. “These results show that exposure to low-frequency magnetic fields has no effect on either disease-related molecular processes or on potential, as yet unknown, disease mechanisms,” said Dr. Clement.
The team believes that low-frequency magnetic fields have no detrimental effects at the level of neurons, although they suggest that further studies should be conducted in this area to confidently establish whether low-frequency magnetic fields pose a health concern for humans or not.