Mobile phones and Alzheimer's Disease


The recent article in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease suggesting that the radiation from mobile phones can improve Alzheimer's disease in mice has added much fuel to the controversy over whether or not mobile phone radiation is detrimental to health. However, experts in the field are concerned about the quality of the research - see below.

The study carried out by researcher Gary Arendash and colleagues at Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, involved 96 mice, most of which were genetically altered to develop beta-amyloid plaques and memory problems mimicking Alzheimer's disease as they aged. Some mice were left as-is, so researchers could test the effects of the radiation on normal memory as well.

Both the Alzheimer's and normal mice were exposed to the electromagnetic field generated by standard cell phone use for two 1-hour periods each day for seven to nine months. The mice were not actually chatting on cell phone or even packing the devices. Rather, they were housed in cages arranged around a centrally-located antenna that generated a cell-phone signal. The cages were arranged at the same distance from the antenna and exposed to the radiation typically emitted by a cell phone pressed up against a human head.

The researchers showed that exposing old Alzheimer's mice to the electromagnetic waves generated by cell phones erased brain deposits of beta-amyloid, a protein strongly associated with Alzheimer's disease. Clumps of beta-amyloid form so-called brain plaques that are a hallmark of the disease.

Results showed if cell phone exposure was started when the Alzheimer's mice were young adults — before signs of memory impairment were apparent — their cognitive ability was protected. In fact, the Alzheimer's mice performed as well on tests measuring memory and thinking skills as aged mice without dementia.
If older Alzheimer's mice already exhibiting memory problems were exposed to the cell phone radiation, their memory impairment disappeared. The researchers suggest this reversal may be due to the slight increase in brain temperature that they observed in the Alzheimer's mice after months of exposure to cell phones. The higher temperature may have helped the Alzheimer's brain to remove newly-formed beta-amyloid by causing brain cells to release it.

The cell phone exposure even boosted the memories of normal mice to above-normal levels.

The memory benefits took months to show up, suggesting that a similar effect in humans would take years. The researchers suspect the main reason for this improvement involves the ability of electromagnetic radiation to increase brain activity, promoting greater blood flow and increased energy metabolism in the brain.

They suspect a similar effect would show up in humans, and so cell phone radiation might be used to prevent and treat the debilitating disease for us, they say. However, studies done on rodents do not always translate to useful human therapies, so more research would be needed.



Dr Andrew Goldsworthy points out in the article below, there is a crucial difference between the radiation used on the mice (which could be beneficial) and that which occurs when mobile phones or wifis are actually in use: the radiation used on the mice was neither pulsed not modulated – in-use wifi and mobile phone radiation is both pulsed and modulated.

I have looked at the original Arendash et al. paper and things are not quite as reported in the press.

The radiation was not modulated
The first point I should make is that they used radiation at 918MHz (similar to a GSM mobile phone in this respect) but it was neither pulsed nor modulated, so it cannot be regarded in any way as being equivalent to real mobile phone or Wifi radiation.

Unmodulated radiation is less biologically active
The non-thermal effects of unmodulated radio frequency radiation are normally much weaker than modulated radiation and could even produce the opposite effect (this is called radiation hormesis, which has been studied mostly in relation to ionizing radiation, but it probably also applies to non-ionizing radiation).

Radiation hormesis
It is argued that living cells and organisms perceive the damaging effects of the radiation and put themselves into “repair mode”. This includes boosting enzymes needed for cellular growth and regeneration and also triggering inflammation to increase the blood supply to the affected region. Provided these measures are successful, there may be no observable adverse effects. However, some of these mechanisms are generic and may also affect other illnesses, so that very weak radiation may have net beneficial effects, even on systems that are not directly affected by it. This may be what we are seeing here; mild inflammation of the brain would increase its blood supply and could stave off the degeneration normally associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Amplitude modulated waves can weaken cell membranes and cause illnesses
Amplitude modulated radio waves (such as those used by mobile phones), where the strength of the carrier wave rises and falls in time with the modulating waveform, give greater biological effects. This is perhaps because they are more effective in jerking structurally-important calcium ions free from cell membranes, which makes them more inclined to leak. The effects of this can be harmful in many cases. (Click here for a proposed mechanism and some of the consequences).

Amplitude modulation can also affect cryptochrome to increase the risk of cancer
When a carrier wave is modulated in this way, it generates a range of other frequencies on either side of the carrier (called sidebands), which contain the information. Digital transmissions have particularly wide sidebands that encompass many other biologically active frequencies, including those that interfere with the activity of cryptochrome, which some animals use to sense magnetic fields for navigation (Ritz et al. Nature, Vol. 429, 13 May 2004). Cryptochrome also occurs in most animal and plant cells, where it is an essential part of the “body clock” that controls their natural circadian rhythms. It is effects on cryptochrome that probably account for the sleep disturbances experienced by people living near base stations. It may also explain their apparent increased risk of getting cancer since the immune system, which normally disposes of aberrant cells before they become cancerous, is controlled by the body clock. This is to make the most efficient use of limited bodily resources, which are switched from physical activity during the day to the immune system at night. If our natural body rhythms are disrupted or reduced in amplitude by the radiation, it means that at no time can the immune system function at maximum strength and we are therefore more likely to develop cancer.

The take-home story
To sum up, it is perfectly possible that unmodulated microwaves could mitigate the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, but modulated microwaves are likely to do more harm than good. So now may not be the time to buy granny a mobile phone, but we should nevertheless look more carefully at the effects of unmodulated radiation. It may really help, but we still need to proceed with great caution.

Andrew Goldsworthy BSc PhD – Lecturer in Biology (retired) Imperial College London


From Charles Claessens member Verband Baubiologie

Andrew Goldesowrthy states that the signal was not pulsed or modulated. He could be right, but I am not sure.
Anyway it cannot be detected from the report. It was completely left out.

But the whole study is a shambles, technically.

When I do house surveys, I also measure the socalled *hotspots, which are small concentrations of high frequencies, the size of a small football. Especially on beds and chairs, where people stay longer, they have to be avoided. (Even on streets electrosensitives may experience problems when they come in contact with hotspots.)

The cages of Arendash are placed within a Faraday cage, so there will be reflections.
The cages itself are made of hard plastic, which will also give reflections.
The images of the deployment also seem to show, that the covers of the cages were made of metal bars.
So in my opinion there must be a lot of hotspots.
That means that the radiation is certainly not homogenous.

Another scientist remarked, that each cage did have a water drink-container of at least 500 ml. Water can absorb EMF very well.
Scientists who care about dosimetry do their upmost in order NOT to have any water near animals.
So, 500 ml water plus ca. 50 g mouse per cage is a dosimetric nightmare.

They used roundbeam antenna is not used full blown, but working on a certain level.
The antenna diagram at lower levels can be un-homogenous and irregular.
See the diagram near the bottom of the page, of a GSM antenna, used by TNO, at 1 V/m.

It is quite clear, that the test persons were not exposed to a ball, but to a point exposure at 3 metre distance.
And that within the nearfield of 3.20 meters for GSM900, where not only the electrical field must be measured, but also the magnetic field, in order to calculate the exact density.

The cages are obviously also placed within the near field.
And here, a GSM antenna can show much higher and much lower densities than in the main beam, so they may be very irregular.
Please have a look at the two graphs at the bottom of this page.

So, in my opinion, each mouse was certainly not exposed to the same level or radiation because of antenna irregularities as well as occurring hotspots.

Still another point is that the SAR value of 0.25 W/kg of particle exposure seems to be calculated from a whole body exposure.

Aside from all this, in many laboratories, it is quite common to have a lot of VLF, in *dirty power* as well as *dirty air*.
These VLF frequencies may invoke bioresonance effects and that is quite another story.
(I have found, that *dirty air* VLF frequencies do carry biological much farther than assumed for electrical fields.)

Charles Claessens


More articles on mobile phones and masts

First Published in Janury 2010

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