Nanomedicine, Volume I: Basic Capabilities

© 1999 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Nanomedicine, Volume I: Basic Capabilities, Landes Bioscience, Georgetown, TX, 1999


4.8.7 Cellular RF and Microwave Oscillations

Starting in 1968, H. Frohlich, observing that millivolt electrical potentials maintained across cell membranes ~10 nm thick give rise to huge fields ~107 volts/m (Section 4.7.1) possibly producing an electret state, theorized that membrane molecules must be highly electrically polarized and thus could interact to produce coherent surface acoustic vibrational modes in the 10-100 GHz (microwave) frequency range;680,681 the longest wavelength is about twice the membrane thickness. Interestingly, this frequency span is very close to the maximum trigger/reset frequency for bioelectronic molecules (Section 4.7.3). Note that (~100 mV) (1.6 x 10-19 coul) ~ 4 kT, so a membrane molecule with a single charge on either end should be reliably reoriented by a depolarization wave, coupling pressure waves and electrostatic field fluctuations. However, the direct detection of 10-100 GHz millimeter radiation by non-nanotechnological means is experimentally difficult and controversial because the tests must be performed in vivo in close proximity to an actively metabolizing cell in water -- and water strongly absorbs microwaves over macroscale ranges (e.g., ~99% absorption in 3 mm at 100 GHz).

Nevertheless, active cells have shown enhanced Raman anti-Stokes scattering, an effect ascribed to the converse of the Frohlich oscillations. In one study, the normalized growth rate of yeast cultures was enhanced or inhibited when irradiated by CW microwave fields of ~30 watts/m2 of various frequencies; growth rate data spanning 62 separate runs revealed a repeatable frequency-dependent spectral fine structure with six distinct peaks of width ~10 MHz near 42 GHz.682 Investigations of related phenomena are ongoing and voluminous; the interested reader should peruse Bioelectromagnetics, the archival journal of this field.

From Eqn. 6.32, 100 GHz waves attenuate only ~1% after passing through ~3 microns of soft tissue. A single electron injected into an integral membrane protein could act as an oscillating dipole, making a 300 volt/m signal 10 nm from the protein antenna with an energy transfer of ~0.004 kT per cycle;686 ~1000 oscillating electrons could produce a measurable field. A 20-micron diameter cell modeled as a nonuniform spherical dipole layer with transmembrane dipoles located 10 nm apart and embedded in a dissipative medium could produce 102-105 volt/m microwave fields 1-10 microns from the cell surface.687

Thus, a variety of rf and microwave electromagnetic emanations may in theory be detectable both within and nearby living cells which could prove diagnostic of numerous internal states. Such states may include cytoskeletal dynamics,684 metabolic rates,682 plasmon-type excitations due to the collective motion of ions freed in chemical reactions,688 positional, rotational or conformational changes in biological macromolecules and membranes,680,721 internal movements of organelles and nerve traffic conduction,685 cellular pinocytosis,1938 cellular reproduction events,683 cell membrane identity (e.g., distinguishing erythrocyte, Gram-positive and Gram-negative cell coat conductivities at 10 KHz728), and cell-cell interactions.687,688


Last updated on 17 February 2003