There is still uncertainty whether extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMF) can induce health effects like immunomodulation. Despite evidence obtained in vitro, an unambiguous association has not yet been established in vivo. Here, mice were exposed to ELF-EMF for 1, 4, and 24 h/day in a short-term (1 week) and long-term (15 weeks) set-up to investigate whole body effects on the level of stress regulation and immune response. ELF-EMF signal contained multiple frequencies (20–5000 Hz) and a magnetic flux density of 10 μT. After exposure, blood was analyzed for leukocyte numbers (short-term and long-term) and adrenocorticotropic hormone concentration (short-term only). Furthermore, in the short-term experiment, stress-related parameters, corticotropin-releasing hormone, proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and CYP11A1 gene-expression, respectively, were determined in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. In the short-term but not long-term experiment, leukocyte counts were significantly higher in the 24 h-exposed group compared with controls, mainly represented by increased neutrophils and CD4 ± lymphocytes. POMC expression and plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone were significantly lower compared with unexposed control mice. In conclusion, short-term ELF-EMF exposure may affect hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation in mice. Changes in stress hormone release may explain changes in circulating leukocyte numbers and composition. Bioelectromagnetics. 37:433–443, 2016.
- immune response
- in vivo exposure