Category: In vitro studies


Radiofrequency Fields induce Microtubule Organisation





This project lies at the interface between physical-chemistry, biology and physics. We address the question of whether radiofrequency electromagnetic fields may affect cellular processes. We have found in vitro, that microtubules -a major element of the cellular cytoskeleton – self-organise when exposed to such fields. We propose to further investigate this behaviour, and to determine whether or not similar effects occur in a human cell-line.




Laboratoire d’Immunochimie, ICH/DRDC, INSERM U548, CEA-Grenoble

Laboratoire de Résonances Magnétiques, DRFMC/SCIB UMR CEA-Grenoble



James Tabony    ICH/DRDC  CEA Grenoble

[email protected]



24 months





The aim of the present proposal is to study a specific mechanism by which electromagnetic fields may intervene in biological processes. Namely; how they induce macroscopic orientation and self-organisation in purified in vitro microtubule preparations – a major element of the cellular cytoskeleton – and to investigate whether similar effects might also occur in vivo. We adopt, using an inter-disciplinary team of biologists, physical chemists, physicists, and radiofrequency electronics engineers, a multidisciplinary approach based on complex systems and emergent phenomena.


One of the difficulties, when envisaging a possible biological effect of electromagnetic fields, is the absence of a plausible molecular mechanism. Weak external fields, such as magnetic and electric fields, are not normally considered as capable of intervening in chemical and biochemical reactions. However, one possible manner, by which they might, is via certain types of reactive self-organising processes, in which the presence, at a critical moment early in the process, of a weak external field, determines the self-organised morphology that subsequently develops.


In biology, one of the elements retarding the adoption of this approach has been the absence of a simple in vitro biological system behaving this way. We have found that the formation of microtubules shows this type of behaviour. Our work in this field constitutes the first, and at present, only example of an in vitro biological system proven to behave this way and has been the subject of numerous publications including several in Nature, Science, and PNAS. Microtubules control both the internal organisation of the cell and the transport of sub-cellular particles from one part of the cell to another; and frequently this behaviour is triggered by some weak internal or external factor. If microtubule self-organisation and associated transport phenomena do not occur in a normal manner then numerous cellular functions will be perturbed and the viability of the cell or embryo may be compromised.


The dependence of microtubule self-organisation on a variety of external fields, such gravity and magnetic fields, which produce a weak orientational effect at the level of individual microtubules, suggested that it might also be affected by electromagnetic fields of suitable intensity and frequency. Our recent results (supported as an ACI project ‘”Effets Biologiques de la Radiotéléphonie”) show that this is indeed the case. The effects we have observed are substantial macroscopic phenomena.


Our observations raise a number of questions. The object of the present proposal is both, to carry out further in vitro experiments on this behaviour, and to investigate whether or not similar effects might also occur in vivo in a specific human cell culture.


From these proposed studies we expect :

1- to increase our knowledge and understanding of how electromagnetic fields induce microtubule self-organisation

2- to show that these effects also occur in miniature cell-sized containers

3- to show that electromagnetic fields also substantially modify microtubule driven colloidal particle transport and organisation

4- to establish whether or not electromagnetic fields can modify microtubule organisation in a specific human cell-line. A prerequisite for carrying out the proposed experiments is to modify and construct a new experimental set-up for irradiating the sample with the electromagnetic field. So as to fulfil this aim, one of the partners contains a team of radiofrequency engineers.


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