Genotoxic effects of exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) in HL-60 cells are not reproducible

Mutat Res. 2013 Aug 15;755(2):163-6. doi: 10.1016/j.mrgentox.2013.06.014. Epub 2013 Jun 28.


Conflicting results have been published regarding the induction of genotoxic effects by exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF). Various results indicating a genotoxic potential of RF-EMF were reported by the collaborative EU-funded REFLEX (Risk Evaluation of Potential Environmental Hazards From Low Energy Electromagnetic Field Exposure Using Sensitive in vitro Methods) project. There has been a long-lasting scientific debate about the reliability of the reported results and an attempt to reproduce parts of the results obtained with human fibroblasts failed. Another part of the REFLEX study was performed in Berlin with the human lymphoblastoid cell line HL-60; genotoxic effects of RF-EMF were measured by means of the comet assay and the micronucleus test. The plausibility and reliability of these results were also questioned. In order to contribute to a clarification of the biological significance of the reported findings, a repeat study was performed, involving scientists of the original study. Comet-assay experiments and micronucleus tests were performed under the same experimental conditions that had led to genotoxic effects in the REFLEX study. Here we report that the attempts to reproduce the induction of genotoxic effects by RF-EMF in HL-60 cells failed. No genotoxic effects of RF-EMF were measured in the repeat experiments. We could not find an explanation for the conflicting results. However, the negative repeat experiments suggest that the biological significance of genotoxic effects of RF-EMF reported by the REFLEX study should be re-assessed.

Keywords: Comet assay; Lymphoblastoid cell line; Micronucleus test; REFLEX study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Comet Assay
  • HL-60 Cells / radiation effects*
  • Humans
  • Micronucleus Tests
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design