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Cell biology

Non-thermal heat-shock response to microwaves

A Retraction to this article was published on 22 March 2006


Exposure limits set for microwave radiation assume that any biological effects result from tissue heating1: non-thermal effects have been reported but remain controversial. We show here that prolonged exposure to low-intensity microwave fields can induce heat-shock responses in the soil nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. This effect appears to be non-thermal, suggesting that current exposure limits set for microwave equipment may need to be reconsidered.

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Figure 1: Saline9 suspensions of young adult PC72 worms grown synchronously at 15 °C (ref. 10) were split between three conditions for a total of 18 h: (1) exposed to microwaves (in TEM cell at 750 MHz and 0.5 W; ref. 5) within a Leec LT3 incubator; (2) temperature controls shielded with aluminium foil in the same incubator; (3) baseline controls at 15 °C.
Figure 2: PC72 and PC161 (similar to PC72, but carrying an additional GFP reporter under hsp16 control) worms were either exposed for 18 h at 25 °C to microwaves (750 MHz, 0.5 W) or kept as 25 °C controls, then reporter expression was localized in situ by staining with X-gal (PC72) or viewing under ultraviolet light on a fluorescence microscope (PC161).


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de Pomerai, D., Daniells, C., David, H. et al. Non-thermal heat-shock response to microwaves . Nature 405, 417–418 (2000).

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