Biological effects of electromagnetic fields

J Cell Biochem. 1993 Apr;51(4):410-6. doi: 10.1002/jcb.2400510405.


Life on earth has evolved in a sea of natural electromagnetic (EM) fields. Over the past century, this natural environment has sharply changed with introduction of a vast and growing spectrum of man-made EM fields. From models based on equilibrium thermodynamics and thermal effects, these fields were initially considered too weak to interact with biomolecular systems, and thus incapable of influencing physiological functions. Laboratory studies have tested a spectrum of EM fields for bioeffects at cell and molecular levels, focusing on exposures at athermal levels. A clear emergent conclusion is that many observed interactions are not based on tissue heating. Modulation of cell surface chemical events by weak EM fields indicates a major amplification of initial weak triggers associated with binding of hormones, antibodies, and neurotransmitters to their specific binding sites. Calcium ions play a key role in this amplification. These studies support new concepts of communication between cells across the barriers of cell membranes; and point with increasing certainty to an essential physical organization in living matter, at a far finer level than the structural and functional image defined in the chemistry of molecules. New collaborations between physical and biological scientists define common goals, seeking solutions to the physical nature of matter through a strong focus on biological matter. The evidence indicates mediation by highly nonlinear, nonequilibrium processes at critical steps in signal coupling across cell membranes. There is increasing evidence that these events relate to quantum states and resonant responses in biomolecular systems, and not to equilibrium thermodynamics associated with thermal energy exchanges and tissue heating.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cells / radiation effects*
  • Cyclotrons
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Electron Transport
  • Free Radicals
  • Iron / radiation effects
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Membrane Potentials / radiation effects
  • Models, Biological
  • Organometallic Compounds / radiation effects
  • Proteins / radiation effects
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / radiation effects
  • Signal Transduction / radiation effects
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence


  • Free Radicals
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Proteins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Iron
  • Calcium