To investigate the effect of microwave emitted by mobile phones on the rat central nervous system (CNS), in vitro cultured cortical neuronal cells and in vivo rat's brain were exposed to the electromagnetic waves emitted by a microwave transmitter that mimics the working frequency of mobile phones. Trypan blue staining and terminal deoxynucleotidy transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL) were used to determine the survival state of neuronal cells while immunohistochemistry method was used to determine the expression level of Bcl-2 and Bax. Our results show that microwave lead to significant cell death in culture and more in vivo brain neuronal cells were stained positive for TUNEL, Bax and Bcl-2 in rats with cranial defect after exposure than that for control groups (with intact cranium, or had no microwave exposure) (P < 0.01). However, no significant differences were observed in the ratio of Bax/Bcl-2 among the groups studied. Therefore, microwave emitted from mobile phones is harmful to both in vitro cultured cortical cells and in vivo brain neuronal cells from rat with cranial defect. The integrity of cranium is important in protecting the CNS against apoptotic injuries inflicted by the microwaves from mobile phones.
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