Franke, H., Streckert, J., Bitz, A., Goeke, J., Hansen, V., Ringelstein, E. B., Nattkämper, H., Galla, H-J. and Stögbauer, F. Effects of Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) Electromagnetic Fields on the Blood-Brain Barrier In Vitro. Radiat. Res. 164, 258–269 (2005).
The extensive use of mobile phone communication has raised public concerns about adverse health effects of radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in recent years. A central issue in this discussion is the question whether EMFs enhance the permeability of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Here we report an investigation on the influence of a generic UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) signal on barrier tightness, transport processes and the morphology of porcine brain microvascular endothelial cell cultures (PBEC) serving as an in vitro model of the BBB. An exposure device with integrated online monitoring system was developed for simultaneous exposure and measuring of transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) to determine the tightness of the BBB. PBEC were exposed continuously for up to 84 h at an average electric-field strength of 3.4–34 V/m (maximum 1.8 W/kg) ensuring athermal conditions. We did not find any evidence of RF-field-induced disturbance of the function of the BBB. After and during exposure, the tightness of the BBB quantified by 14C-sucrose and serum albumin permeation as well as by TEER remained unchanged compared to sham-exposed cultures. Permeation of transporter substrates at the BBB as well as the localization and integrity of the tight-junction proteins occludin and ZO1 were not affected either.