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Anthropogenic Radio-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields Elicit Neuropathic Pain in an Amputation Model
13 jan. 2016
Bryan Black , Rafael Granja-Vazquez , Benjamin R. Johnston , Erick Jones, Mario Romero-Ortega
Published: January 13, 2016http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0144268
Anecdotal and clinical reports have suggested that radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMFs) may serve as a trigger for neuropathic pain. However, these reports have been widely disregarded, as the epidemiological effects of electromagnetic fields have not been systematically proven, and are highly controversial. Here, we demonstrate that anthropogenic RF EMFs elicit post-neurotomy pain in a tibial neuroma transposition model. Behavioral assays indicate a persistent and significant pain response to RF EMFs when compared to SHAM surgery groups. Laser thermometry revealed a transient skin temperature increase during stimulation. Furthermore, immunofluorescence revealed an increased expression of temperature sensitive cation channels (TRPV4) in the neuroma bulb, suggesting that RF EMF-induced pain may be due to cytokine-mediated channel dysregulation and hypersensitization, leading to thermal allodynia. Additional behavioral assays were performed using an infrared heating lamp in place of the RF stimulus. While thermally-induced pain responses were observed, the response frequency and progression did not recapitulate the RF EMF effects. In vitro calcium imaging experiments demonstrated that our RF EMF stimulus is sufficient to directly contribute to the depolarization of dissociated sensory neurons. Furthermore, the perfusion of inflammatory cytokine TNF-α resulted in a significantly higher percentage of active sensory neurons during RF EMF stimulation. These results substantiate patient reports of RF EMF-pain, in the case of peripheral nerve injury, while confirming the public and scientific consensus that anthropogenic RF EMFs engender no adverse sensory effects in the general population.
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