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Cellphones decoded
S Rajagopalan
Washington, August 08, 2006
First Published: 05:44 IST(8/8/2006)
Last Updated: 05:44 IST(8/8/2006)

It's still a big unknown if cellphones are a potential health hazard, but a new study is convinced about one aspect: Effects of cellphone radiation could vary from person to person, depending on a user’s genes.

Reporting the findings of the study that was carried out in Finland, MIT's Technology Review journal says the way a living cell responds to radio waves from a cellphone could depend on the cell’s genetic makeup. 

The first to examine how the impact of cellphone exposure might be affected by genomic differences, the study also helps explain why replication of previous attempts linking cellphone use with health problems have failed.

Claims have been made in the past that exposure to cellphone radio waves can cause different types of cancer and other diseases, but most scientists have remained sceptical.

Dariusz Leszczynski, head of radiation biology at the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Helsinki, who led the new study, concedes his study does not make one wiser about the safety of cellphones. “This (study) shows only that different cells can respond differently,” he says adding long-term studies are probably the only way to help uncover the health effects of cellphones. 

For the purpose of the study, Leszczynski and associates used two sets of cultured human endothelial cells that were slightly different genetically. Both were exposed to 900 MHz GSM cellphone radiation, then tested to see which genes had been expressed. In a second set of tests, the cells were screened to see if there were any changes in the amount of proteins expressed.

Even as the team’s findings are due to be published in the scientific journal Proteomics, yet another study has come out with the warning that cellphones are an ideal breeding ground for germs.

“This includes the dangerous bacteria called staph, which can cause everything from pimples to pneumonia to meningitis,” says the study conducted in Britain.

The researchers in this case reportedly found more bacteria on a cellphone than a door handle, a computer keyboard or even a toilet seat.


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