Plenary Talks including Debates and Round Tables


Plenary 1: Effects of Static and Oscillatory Magnetic Fields on Cryptochromes: A Mechanistic Perspective

Rachel Muheim
Lund University, Sweden

Talk: “Cryptochrome-based magnetoreception and the effects of RF-fields on animal orientation”

Rachel Muheim is a researcher at Lund University, Sweden, and part of the Lund Vision Group and the Center for Animal Movement Research, CAnMove. Her research focuses on the behavioural and physiological characterization of the light-dependent magnetic compass and polarized light sensitivity in birds, and on stopover behaviour and the use of different orientation cues in migratory birds. Rachel Muheim received a Master’s degree in Zoology from the University of Zürich, Switzerland, and a PhD on magnetic orientation in migratory birds from Lund University. She worked four years as postdoc in the lab of Prof. John Phillips at Virginia Tech, USA, investigating magnetic compass orientation in a variety of organisms, including newts and mice. Upon her return to Lund in 2008, she developed a novel behavioural training assay to study magnetic compass orientation in birds in a non-migratory context. The objectives of her work are to combine the new possibilities that have opened up with this new behavioural approach with the latest molecular genetic, neuroanatomical, and biophysical tools. The goal is to unravel the behavioural, physiological and molecular mechanisms of light-dependent magnetic compass orientation and polarized light sensitivity in birds, identify and describe the interactions between these two sensory cues, and study how birds use the information for orientation during migration and in other spatial orientation tasks.

Daniel Kattnig
University of Exeter, United Kingdom

Talk: “Effects of static and oscillatory magnetic fields on cryptochromes: a mechanistic perspective”

Daniel Kattnig is a Senior Lecturer at the recently established cross-disciplinary Living Systems Institute at the University of Exeter. His current research activity is in the field of quantum biology or, more precisely, theoretical and experimental spin chemistry, an interdisciplinary field dedicated to the effects of weak magnetic fields on chemical reactions and biological processes. The theoretical modelling of avian magnetoreception, which has been hypothesised to rely on quantum phenomena involving transient radical pairs, is at the heart of his current research endeavours. Daniel completed his PhD in Physical Chemistry at the University of Technology Graz, Austria, on studies of photo-induced electron transfer phenomena (Prof. Grampp). It is during this period that he first delved into the study of magnetic field effects on charge recombination reactions. Following a short period in industrial research, Daniel joined the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Mainz, Germany, where he focused on the investigation of soft matter by means of pulsed electron paramagnetic resonance (Prof. Spiess). Returning to Graz, he took on a research position dedicated to magnetic field effects on donor acceptor systems, which he held until 2013 when he joined the group of Prof. Hore at the University of Oxford. In 2017 Daniel eventually moved to the Living Systems institute at Exeter, where he is setting up a group dedicated to the theoretical and experimental investigation of magnetic field effects.


Despite studies on the interaction of magnetic fields with the cryptochrome receptor have been around for years, interesting new findings, published in excellent scientific journals, became available recently. Basically, these studies give increasing evidence or an interaction including mechanistic data. Apart from in vivo studies, theoretical approaches have been published. Therefore, this plenary will include a presentation on biological effects and underlying mechanisms as well as theoretical hypotheses on the underlying mechanisms with interaction between the two.


Plenary 2: The International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) Draft High Frequency (100 kHz – 300 GHz) Guidelines

Rodney J. Croft
University of Wollongong, Australia

Rodney Croft is Professor of Health Psychology within the School of Psychology, University of Wollongong, where he leads a bioelectromagnetics research group at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI). His doctoral research was in neurophysiology methodology, where he assessed and improved models for accounting for ocular voltage contamination of the electroencephalogram (EEG), followed by postdoctoral work utilizing his EEG expertise to explore the relation between neurochemistry and psychological/psychiatric function. Croft began researching effects of radiofrequency fields on humans in 2000, with the focus on potential detrimental effects on humans using the EEG. His bioelectromagnetics work now includes a range of methodologies, with as the unifying theme an attempt to understand the effect of non-ionizing radiation on human health and well-being. Croft has led Australian government-funded Centres of Research Excellence in this area since 2005, has been on the Main Commission of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) since 2014, and chairs the ICNIRP Project Group developing its new radiofrequency guidelines.


ICNIRP is revising the guidelines for high-frequency (100 kHz – 300 GHz) published in 1998 since 2014. At the BioEM meeting the draft of the guidelines will be presented and disseminated for subsequent public consultation in order to engage feedback from the scientific community. This will ensure that relevant literature is not missed and that all perspectives are appropriately considered.


Plenary 3: Exploring Dielectrophoresis and its Applications in the Biomedical Sciences

Ronald Pethig
The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Ronald Pethig is Emeritus Professor of Bioelectronics at the School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh. He received training in electrical engineering and physical chemistry and has enjoyed many years working with cell biologists and biomedical engineers (e.g., as an adjunct scientist since 1982 at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole; adjunct professor of physiology at the Medical University of Charleston, 1984-88). His main research interest has been the dielectric and electrochemical properties of biological materials, and in particular the development of the electrokinetic method of dielectrophoresis for characterizing and manipulating cells and other bioparticles for biomedical applications. In 2001 he received the Herman P Schwan Award for work in biodielectrics, and in 2017 the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Electrophoresis Society (AES). Amongst other activities he currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of IET Nanobiotechnology and enjoys beekeeping.


Dielectrophoresis (DEP) has been widely studied for its potential as a biomarker-free method of sorting cells and other bioparticles based on their intrinsic dielectric properties. Under appropriate experimental conditions the DEP frequency spectrum typically exhibited by a viable mammalian cell in suspension is characterized by two frequencies, fxo1 and fxo2. At low frequencies (<10 kHz) viable cells typically exhibit negative DEP. Understanding and biomedical exploitation of this phenomenon can be considered to represent exploration of the ‘1st frontier of cellular dielectrophoresis’. The factors that control the high frequency DEP cross-over at fxo2 have only recently been explored, and the status and implications of this ‘2nd frontier of dielectrophoresis’ will be discussed.


Plenary 4: Frontiers of Electroporation, from Mechanisms to Applications

Andrei Pakhomov
Old Dominion University, Norfolk, United States

Talk: “Advances in electroporation and activation of cells by nanosecond stimuli”

Andrei Pakhomov is a Research Professor and an Interim Director of the Center for Bioelectrics. He has broad interest in nanosecond pulsed electric fields (nsPEF), from molecular and cellular mechanisms to prospective applications in cancer ablation, deep tissue stimulation, and defibrillation. He leads research on nanoelectropore opening and life cycle, conduction properties, cell stimulation and activation, membrane repair, and cell death mechanisms and pathways. Pakhomov’s lab recently uncovered bipolar cancellation, a phenomenon that challenges existing electroporation paradigms and may enable targeted remote biostimulation. His ongoing research is supported by a multi-university MURI grant from AFOSR and an RO1 grant from NIH.

Mounir Tarek
CNRS, Université de Lorraine, Nancy, France

Talk: “Unraveling new key molecular level aspects using computational chemistry”

Mounir Tarek is a Senior Research Director at the CNRS-Université de Lorraine. His research involves the use of computational chemistry methods to study membranes, proteins, ion channels and membrane transport proteins. Over the last few years, he studied many aspects of electroporation of cell membranes subject to high electric fields. M. Tarek is a founding member and a member of the Scientific Council of the Europeen Associated Laboratory EBAM ‘Pulsed Electric Fields Applications in Biology and Medicine’.


Electroporation is a well assessed topic and at the same time a continuously evolving field, great efforts are put in an always better understanding of the molecular mechanisms at the basis of the cellular response, at the same time an exciting exploitation of possible new applications is growing. Aim of this plenary is to give a new, informative and exciting view of this scientific evolution perspective. In particular a focus on new methodology based on classical-quantum modelling to study possible lipid peroxidation due to electric fields. Beside this a new possible application is described based on neuronal stimulation with nanosecond electric pulses.


Plenary 5 (Hot Topic): Does amount of mobile phone use affect headache, tinnitus and hearing? Results from the Cohort Study of Mobile Phone use and Health (COSMOS)

Anssi Auvinen
University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland

Anssi Auvinen will be presenting on behalf of the COSMOS Study Group (M Feychting, A Ahlbom, L Hillert, P Elliott, J Schüz, H Kromhout, MB Toledano, A Harbo Poulsen, R Vermeulen, S Heinävaara, K Kojo, G Tettamanti)

Anssi Auvinen is professor of epidemiology at University of Tampere and part-time research professor at STUK- Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority. His background is in medicine and he has worked as a visiting scientist at U.S. National Cancer Institute, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and Erasmus MC Rotterdam. His research interests include health effects of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation and he has published >80 papers in this field. He is the PI of the Finnish COSMOS cohort and has served as an expert on radiation and health for SCENIHR, WHO, UNSCEAR and other organizations.


We analyzed self-reported headache, tinnitus and hearing loss among Swedish and Finnish participants of the COSMOS cohort study at four-year follow-up among those who reported no such symptom at baseline. Amount of call-time was obtained from network operators for a period of approximately three months at entry, with average weekly call-time divided into quantiles for the analysis. Also, type of network (GSM or 2G versus UMTS or 3G) was available based on the first base station of the call. Only those participants were included for whom operator data on all mobile phones was available and who provided additional data on their usage through the baseline questionnaire. The outcomes were weekly or more frequent headaches, tinnitus and hearing loss reported at follow-up among participants free of these complaints at baseline. The data were analyzed using logistic regression. A slightly increased frequency of weekly headaches was found among the participants in the highest decile of mobile phone use compared with the lowest 50%, after adjustment for age, gender, country, daily analgesic use, previous diagnosis of depression, sleep disorders as well as SF-12 physical and mental health score. A comparable association was observed for severe headache (HIT6 score>56) and daily headaches. In the analysis by network type, an association was found for calls in UMTS but not for GSM. Amount of mobile phone call-time was not associated with tinnitus or hearing loss. We found a suggestive association of the amount of mobile phone call-time at baseline and headache, but not tinnitus or hearing loss at follow-up four years later. This seems unlikely to be due to the radiofrequency electromagnetic field emitted by the phone, because no association emerged for calls in GSM that has substantially higher emitted power than calls in UMTS. Psychological factors associated with extensive mobile phone use such as work-related stress, life-style or problematic, addictive mobile phone use may be more likely to explain the finding.