Mailankot Maneesh, Anil P Kunnath, Jayalekshmi H,
Radio frequency electromagnetic radiation(RF-EMR) from GSM(0.9/1.8GHz) mobile phones induces oxidative stress and reduces sperm motility in rats
CLINICS 2009; 64(6):561-5
Maneesh Mailankot,Anil P Kunnath,Jayalekshmi H,Bhargav Koduru, Rohith ValsalanDepartment of Biochemistry, Melaka Manipal, Medical College (Manipal Campus), Manipal, India.
College of Allied Health Sciences, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, India.
Amritha School of Biotechnology, Clappana, Kerala, India.
Department of Biochemistry, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, India.
Department of Medicine, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, India.
In the present study, we have tested the hypothesis that RF-EMR from mobile phones results in oxidative stress and decreases semen quality. We found a striking reduction in the percentage of motile sperm in rats exposed to RF-EMR, as well as a significantly elevated LPO and decreased GSH content in the testis and epididymis.
Several recent epidemiological studies have investigated the effects of RF-EMR from mobile phones on the human body, but results to date have been contradictory and inconclusive. Furthermore, these studies have not addressed questions regarding the thermal effects of mobile phone exposure. Many researchers believe that the effects of mobile phone exposure may be due to the cumulative effects of the heat generated and the RF-EMR emitted from mobile phone; others have suggested that the contribution of the non-thermal component is minimal and that the effects of mobile phone exposure would be negligible if the thermal effect could be eliminated. Certainly, it is widely accepted that temperature increases adversely affect sperm maturity and motility. In the present study, we excluded temperature effects by keeping the mobile phone in a smaller cage within the home cage. Furthermore, animals were allowed to move freely within the home cage in order to reduce their contact with the phone, and both cages were kept in well-ventilated rooms throughout the experiment to further reduce the possibility of heating. Finally, to confirm the lack of thermal effect, we measured the facial temperatures of rats in both groups both before and after exposure to the phone. After 1 hour of exposure, the mean facial temperature did not differ significantly from the initial temperature in either group. This experimental design eliminated mechanical heat influence from the phone and allowed us to conclude that RF-EMR alone affected the reproductive tissue.
Oxidative stress is also a well-established cause of male infertility. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) from spermatozoa and infiltrating leukocytes cause infertility principally by affecting sperm motility. Spermatozoa possess a multiple plasma membrane redox system that is similar to the transmembrane NADH oxidase. NADH oxidase activity is a major source of superoxide anions and, interestingly, RF-EMR has been shown to stimulate NADH oxidase in the plasma membrane of mammalian cells. Normally, ROS is kept at physiologically low levels by intracellular free radical scavengers. GSH, a major thiol in living organisms, is one such scavenger, and plays a central role in coordinating the body’s antioxidant defense mechanisms against free radicals. Conditions that perturb intracellular glutathione levels result in significantly altered cellular metabolism. Tissue GSH reflects tissues ability to detoxify, preserve the proper cellular redox balance, and protect cells. GSH also probably plays a role in sperm nucleus condensation and spindle microtubule formation. The depletion of GSH in RF-EMR exposed animals observed here supports our hypothesis that elevated ROS is responsible for low percentages of motile sperm. Similar findings were reported for human ejaculate exposed to RF-EMR from a mobile phone. We also believe that RF-EMR induces oxidative stress that affects testicular function and structure in rabbits exposed to mobile phones.
Our study validates recent observational studies showing that mobile phone use may play a role in male infertility. Further research will be required to understand the long-term effects of mobile phone use.