Cell membranes: The electromagnetic environment and cancer promotion


Use of weak electromagnetic fields to study the sequence and energetics of events that couple humoral stimuli from surface receptor sites to the cell interior has identified cell membranes as a primary site of interaction, with these low frequency fields. Field modulation of cell surface chemical events 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 stimulus amplification, probably through highly cooperative alterations in binding to surface glycoproteins, with spreading waves of altered calcium binding across the membrane surface. Protein particles spanning the cell membrane form pathways for signaling and energy transfer. Fields millions of times weaker than the membrane potential gradient of 105V/cm modulate cell responses to surface stimulating molecules. The evidence supports nonlinear, nonequilibrium processes at critical steps in transmembrane signal coupling. Powerful cancer-promoting phorbol esters act at cell membranes to stimulate ornithine decarboxylase which is essential for cell growth and DNA synthesis. This response is enhanced by weak microwave fields, also acting at cell membranes.

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Correspondence to W. R. Adey.

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Special issue dedicated to Prof. Holger Hydén.

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Adey, W.R. Cell membranes: The electromagnetic environment and cancer promotion. Neurochem Res 13, 671–677 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00973286

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Key Words

  • Cell membranes
  • transductive coupling
  • electromagnetic fields
  • cancer promotion