Terahertz radiation increases genomic instability in human lymphocytes

Radiat Res. 2008 Aug;170(2):224-34. doi: 10.1667/RR0944.1.


Terahertz radiation is increasingly being applied in new and evolving technologies applied in areas such as homeland security and medical imaging. Thus a timely assessment of the potential hazards and health effects of occupational and general population exposure to THz radiation is required. We applied continuous-wave (CW) 0.1 THz radiation (0.031 mW/ cm(2)) to dividing lymphocytes for 1, 2 and 24 h and examined the changes in chromosome number of chromosomes 1, 10, 11 and 17 and changes in the replication timing of their centromeres using interphase fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Chromosomes 11 and 17 were most vulnerable (about 30% increase in aneuploidy after 2 and 24 h of exposure), while chromosomes 1 and 10 were not affected. We observed changes in the asynchronous mode of replication of centromeres 11, 17 and 1 (by 40%) after 2 h of exposure and of all four centromeres after 24 h of exposure (by 50%). It is speculated that these effects are caused by radiation-induced low-frequency collective vibrational modes of proteins and DNA. Our results demonstrate that exposure of lymphocytes in vitro to a low power density of 0.1 THz radiation induces genomic instability. These findings, if verified, may suggest that such exposure may result in an increased risk of cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Genome, Human / genetics*
  • Genome, Human / radiation effects*
  • Genomic Instability / genetics*
  • Genomic Instability / radiation effects*
  • Humans
  • Infrared Rays
  • Male
  • Microwaves
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiation Dosage