Aims: Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can act as inducers or mediators of stress response through the production of heat shock proteins (HSPs) that modulate immune response and thymus functions. In this study, we analyzed cellular stress levels in rat thymus after exposure of the rats to a 2.45 GHz radio frequency (RF) using an experimental diathermic model in a Gigahertz Transverse Electromagnetic (GTEM) chamber.
Main methods: In this experiment, we used H&E staining, the ELISA test and immunohistochemistry to examine Hsp70 and Hsp90 expression in the thymus and glucocorticoid receptors (GR) of 64 female Sprague–Dawley rats exposed individually to 2.45 GHz (at 0, 1.5, 3.0 or 12.0 W power). The 1 g averaged peak and mean SAR values in the thymus and whole body of each rat to ensure that sub-thermal levels of radiation were being reached.
Key findings: The thymus tissue presented several morphological changes, including increased distribution of blood vessels along with the appearance of red blood cells and hemorrhagic reticuloepithelial cells. Levels of Hsp90 decreased in the thymus when animals were exposed to the highest power level (12 W), but only one group did not show recovery after 24 h. Hsp70 presented no significant modifications in any of the groups. The glucocorticoid receptors presented greater immunomarking on the thymic cortex in exposed animals.
Significance: Our results indicate that non-ionizing sub-thermal radiation causes changes in the endothelial permeability and vascularization of the thymus, and is a tissue-modulating agent for Hsp90 and GR.
Keywords: GTEM; HSP; Non-ionizing radiation; SAR; Sub-thermal; Thymus.