The exposure of primary rat neocortical astroglial cell cultures to acute electromagnetic fields (EMF) in the microwave range was studied. Differentiated astroglial cell cultures at 14 days in vitro were exposed for 5, 10, or 20min to either 900MHz continuous waves or 900MHz waves modulated in amplitude at 50Hz using a sinusoidal waveform and 100% modulation index. The strength of the electric field (rms value) at the sample position was 10V/m. No change in cellular viability evaluated by MTT test and lactate dehydrogenase release was observed. A significant increase in ROS levels and DNA fragmentation was found only after exposure of the astrocytes to modulated EMF for 20min. No evident effects were detected when shorter time intervals or continuous waves were used. The irradiation conditions allowed the exclusion of any possible thermal effect. Our data demonstrate, for the first time, that even acute exposure to low intensity EMF induces ROS production and DNA fragmentation in astrocytes in primary cultures, which also represent the principal target of modulated EMF. Our findings also suggest the hypothesis that the effects could be due to hyperstimulation of the glutamate receptors, which play a crucial role in acute and chronic brain damage. Furthermore, the results show the importance of the amplitude modulation in the interaction between EMF and neocortical astrocytes.
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