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Proceedings Paper

THz in biology and medicine: toward quantifying and understanding the interaction of millimeter- and submillimeter-waves with cells and cell processes
Author(s): Peter H. Siegel; Victor Pikov
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Paper Abstract

As the application and commercial use of millimeter- and submillimeter-wavelength radiation become more widespread, there is a growing need to understand and quantify both the coupling mechanisms and the impact of this long wavelength energy on biological function. Independent of the health impact of high doses of radio frequency (RF) energy on full organisms, which has been extensively investigated, there exists the potential for more subtle effects, which can best be quantified in studies which examine real-time changes in cellular functions as RF energy is applied. In this paper we present the first real time examination of RF induced changes in cellular activity at absorbed power levels well below the existing safe exposure limits. Fluorescence microscopy imaging of immortalized epithelial and neuronal cells in vitro indicate increased cellular membrane permeability and nanoporation after short term exposure to modest levels (10-50 mW/cm2) of RF power at 60 GHz. Sensitive patch clamp measurements on pyramidal neurons in cortical slices of neonatal rats showed a dramatic increase in cellular membrane permeability resulting either in suppression or facilitation of neuronal activity during exposure to sub-μW/cm2 of RF power at 60 GHz. Non-invasive modulation of neuronal activity could prove useful in a variety of health applications from suppression of peripheral neuropathic pain to treatment of central neurological disorders.

Paper Details

Date Published: 23 February 2010
PDF: 13 pages
Proc. SPIE 7562, Optical Interactions with Tissues and Cells XXI, 75620H (23 February 2010); doi: 10.1117/12.845380
Show Author Affiliations
Peter H. Siegel, California Institute of Technology (United States)
Victor Pikov, Huntington Medical Research Institutes (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7562:
Optical Interactions with Tissues and Cells XXI
E. Duco Jansen; Robert J. Thomas, Editor(s)

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