Anti-Oxidative and Immune Regulatory Responses of THP-1 and PBMC to Pulsed EMF Are Field-Strength Dependent

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Sep 9;18(18):9519. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18189519.


Innate immune cells react to electromagnetic fields (EMF) by generating reactive oxygen species (ROS), crucial intracellular messengers. Discrepancies in applied parameters of EMF studies, e.g., flux densities, complicate direct comparison of downstream anti-oxidative responses and immune regulatory signaling. We therefore compared the impact of different EMF flux densities in human leukemic THP1 cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of healthy donors to additionally consider a potential disparate receptivity based on medical origin. ROS levels increased in THP1 cells stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) after one hour of EMF exposure. Moreover, weak EMF mitigated the depletion of the reducing agent NAD(P)H in THP1. Neither of these effects occurred in PBMC. Landscaping transcriptional responses to varied EMF revealed elevation of the anti-oxidative enzymes PRDX6 (2-fold) and DHCR24 (6-fold) in THP1, implying involvement in lipid metabolism. Furthermore, our study confirmed anti-inflammatory effects of EMF by 6-fold increased expression of IL10. Strikingly, THP1 responded to weak EMF, while PBMC were primarily affected by strong EMF, yet with severe cellular stress and enhanced rates of apoptosis, indicated by HSP70 and caspase 3 (CASP3). Taken together, our results emphasize an altered susceptibility of immune cells of different origin and associate EMF-related effects with anti-inflammatory signaling and lipid metabolism.

Keywords: EM field strength; anti-oxidative response; extremely low frequency pulsed electromagnetic fields (ELF-PEMF); immune stimulation; reactive oxygen species (ROS).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Electromagnetic Fields* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Reactive Oxygen Species


  • Reactive Oxygen Species