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. 2017 Jun 27;12(6):e0179340.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179340. eCollection 2017.

Biological Effects of the Hypomagnetic Field: An Analytical Review of Experiments and Theories

Free PMC article

Biological Effects of the Hypomagnetic Field: An Analytical Review of Experiments and Theories

Vladimir N Binhi et al. PLoS One. .
Free PMC article


During interplanetary flights in the near future, a human organism will be exposed to prolonged periods of a hypomagnetic field that is 10,000 times weaker than that of Earth's. Attenuation of the geomagnetic field occurs in buildings with steel walls and in buildings with steel reinforcement. It cannot be ruled out also that a zero magnetic field might be interesting in biomedical studies and therapy. Further research in the area of hypomagnetic field effects, as shown in this article, is capable of shedding light on a fundamental problem in biophysics-the problem of primary magnetoreception. This review contains, currently, the most extensive bibliography on the biological effects of hypomagnetic field. This includes both a review of known experimental results and the putative mechanisms of magnetoreception and their explanatory power with respect to the hypomagnetic field effects. We show that the measured correlations of the HMF effect with HMF magnitude and inhomogeneity and type and duration of exposure are statistically absent. This suggests that there is no general biophysical MF target similar for different organisms. This also suggests that magnetoreception is not necessarily associated with evolutionary developed specific magnetoreceptors in migrating animals and magnetotactic bacteria. Independently, there is nonspecific magnetoreception that is common for all organisms, manifests itself in very different biological observables as mostly random reactions, and is a result of MF interaction with magnetic moments at a physical level-moments that are present everywhere in macromolecules and proteins and can sometimes transfer the magnetic signal at the level of downstream biochemical events. The corresponding universal mechanism of magnetoreception that has been given further theoretical analysis allows one to determine the parameters of magnetic moments involved in magnetoreception-their gyromagnetic ratio and thermal relaxation time-and so to better understand the nature of MF targets in organisms.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Fig 1
Fig 1. Correlation diagrams.
Diagrams that show no correlation between the magnitude of a magnetic effect and the HMF value—A, or the duration of the HMF exposure—B, in groups Co (red) and Sh (blue). Pearson’s coefficients are in all cases less than 0.1 in absolute value, being negative, −0.07, for diagram A.
Fig 2
Fig 2. Distributions of the magnitudes of HMF effects.
Distributions in groups of HMF obtained by compensating and shielding.
Fig 3
Fig 3. A numerical simulation of HMF effects.
Effects that are expected in 1000 different biological species under the following model assumptions: A—unconditional HMF effects at f ≡ 1, B—HMF effects at f = f(H, Hth) with a fixed Hth = 100 nT, C—HMF effects at f = f(H, Hth) with a widely distributed Hth.
Fig 4
Fig 4. The change in the probability of primary reaction as a function of different variables.
(A) The probability change with a decrease in the constant MF, i.e. the “zero-field” effect, Eq (6). (B) The probability change with a decrease in frequency of the alternating MF at ηh = 20, 1—according Eq (7) and 2—according Eq (8).
Fig 5
Fig 5. Approximation of curve −sinc2(x) with x = γHτ/2 by experimental data [96].
Designations: the number of roots growing horizontally ▫ or vertically •; growth angle of the remaining roots ○.
Fig 6
Fig 6. A magnetic vacuum effect.
The number of molecular gyroscopes in HMF at different ratio of the thermal relaxation time and the characteristic time of chemical kinetics: ττk, α = 10−4 (1), α = 10−5 (2); and τ = 0.1τk, α = 10−4 (3).
Fig 7
Fig 7. Notation for variables.
Relative position of the MF vector H and the magnetic moment m of a nanoparticle. Note that m cannot follow H where φ0 is about π as far as a deviation of m from direction n produces a restoring torque of magnitude −κφ; hence, two potential minima occur over φ.
Fig 8
Fig 8. Characteristics of the random rotational oscillations of a magnetic nanoparticle.
(A) The potential function of the particle with different values of the parameter a = mH/2kT that is proportional to the MF, b = 0.5, and φ0 = 1.1π. (B) The averaged standard deviation of the particle oscillations under the action of thermal disturbances at different values of the elasticity of the cytoskeleton b = κ/2kT.
Fig 9
Fig 9. Motion of a D-defect due to the tunneling of a proton to the neighboring H-bond along the reaction coordinate x.
White circles are protons, gray circles are oxygens. Shown are the exchange interaction potential U(x) of the tunneling proton and proton spin states.

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Grant support

This work was supported by grant number 2014-05589 by The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.