Chronic exposure to 50Hz magnetic fields causes a significant weakening of antioxidant defence systems in aged rat brain

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2008;40(12):2762-70. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2008.05.022. Epub 2008 Jun 10.


Several studies suggest that extremely low-frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MFs) may enhance the free radical endogenous production. It is also well known that one of the unavoidable consequences of ageing is an overall oxidative stress-based decline in several physiological functions and in the general resistance to stressors. On the basis of these assumptions, the aim of this study was to establish whether the ageing process can increase susceptibility towards widely present ELF-MF-mediated pro-oxidative challenges. To this end, female Sprague-Dawley rats were continuously exposed to a sinusoidal 50 Hz, 0.1 mT magnetic field for 10 days. Treatment-induced changes in the major antioxidant protection systems and in the neurotrophic support were investigated, as a function of the age of the subjects. All analyses were performed in brain cortices, due to the high susceptibility of neuronal cells to oxidative injury. Our results indicated that ELF-MF exposure significantly affects anti-oxidative capability, both in young and aged animals, although in opposite ways. Indeed, exposed young individuals enhanced their neurotrophic signalling and anti-oxidative enzymatic defence against a possible ELF-MF-mediated increase in oxygen radical species. In contrast, aged subjects were not capable of increasing their defences in response to ELF-MF treatment but, on the contrary, they underwent a significant decrease in the major antioxidant enzymatic activities. In conclusion, our data seem to suggest that the exposure to ELF-MFs may act as a risk factor for the occurrence of oxidative stress-based nervous system pathologies associated with ageing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / enzymology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / radiation effects*
  • Catalase / metabolism
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Glutathione Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Glutathione Reductase / metabolism
  • Glutathione Transferase / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / radiation effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Antioxidants
  • Catalase
  • Glutathione Peroxidase
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Glutathione Reductase
  • Glutathione Transferase