The human immune system is part of a general defense barrier towards our surrounding environment.
We live in a biological system, the world, dominated by various microorganisms, including microbes and viruses, many of which can cause harm.
The immune system serves as the primary line of defense against invasion by such microbes.
As we are, practically speaking, built as a tube, the outer surface – the skin – and the innermost surface – the gastrointestinal tract – are the major borders between us and the outside world.
These borders must be guarded, protected and constantly repaired since any damage to them could be fatal.
In addition to these major borders, there are a number of other organ/tissue interfaces at which cellular conduct is monitored, evaluated and dealt with 24 h around the clock.
The damage that is not detected and properly repaired in time can develop into cancer; something well known for ultraviolet light overexposure.
The skin and the mucous membranes are part of the innate or non-adaptive immune system.
However, if these barriers are broken (e.g. after cutting a finger), then microbes, including potential pathogens (i.e. harmful microbes) can enter the body and begin to multiply rapidly in the warm, moist, nutrient-rich environment.
The cut may not be as abrupt as a knife cut, it could also very well be an internal leakage, such as the one found after microwave exposure of the fragile blood–brain barrier.
Such a leakage could indeed be fatal, causing nerve cell damage and followed by cellular death.
One of the first cell types encountered by a foreign organism after a cut in the skin is the phagocytic white blood cell.
These cells congregate within minutes and begin to attack the invading foreign microbes.
The next cell type to be found in the area of such a local infection will be the so-called neutrophils.
They are also phagocytic and use pattern-recognizing surface receptor molecules to detect structures commonly found on the surface of bacteria. As a result, these bacteria – as well as other forms of particulate materials – will be ingested and degraded by the neutrophils.
Various other protein components of serum, including the complement components, may bind to the invader organisms and facilitate their phagocytosis, thereby further limiting the source of infection/disease.
Other large molecules, the interferons, mediate an early response to viral infection by the innate system.
The innate immune system is often sufficient to destroy invading microbes.
If it fails to clear an infection, it will rapidly activate the adaptive or acquired immune response, which – as a consequence – takes over. The molecular messenger connection between the innate and the adaptive systems are molecules known as cytokines. (The interferons
are part of this molecular family.)
The first cells in this cellular orchestra to be activated are the T- and B-lymphocytes.
These cells are normally at rest and are only recruited when needed, i.e. when encountering a foreign (=non-self) entity referred to as an
antigen. The T- and B-lymphocytes, together with a wide spectrum of other cell types, have antigen receptors or antigen-recognizing molecules on their surface. Among them you find the classical antibodies (=B-cell antigen receptors), T-cell antigen receptors as well as the specific protein products of special genetic regions (=the major histocompatibility complexes). The genes of humans are referred to as human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes and their protein products as HLA molecules. The antibodies – apart from being B-cell surface receptors – are also found as soluble antigen-recognizing molecules in the blood (immunoglobulins). The adaptive immune response is very highly effective but rather slow; it can take 7–10 days to mobilize completely. It has a very effective pathogen (non-self) recognition mechanism, a molecular memory and can improve its production of pathogen-recognition molecules during the response.
A particularly interesting set of cells are the various dendritic cells of the skin as well as elsewhere. In the outermost cutaneous portion, the epidermis, you find both dendritic melanocytes, the cells responsible for the pigment-production, as well as the Langerhans cells with their
antigen-presenting capacity. In the deeper layer, the dermis, you find corresponding cells, as well as the basophilic mast cells, often showing a distinct dendritic appearance using proper markers such as chymase, tryptase or histamine. All these cells are the classical reactors to external radiation, such as radioactivity, X-rays and UV light. For that reason, our demonstration of a high-to-very high number of somatostatin-immunoreactive dendritic cells in the skin of persons with the functional impairment electrohypersensitivity is of the greatest importance. Also, the alterations found in the mast cell population of normal healthy volunteers exposed in front of ordinary household TVs and
computer screens are intriguing, as are the significantly increased number of serotonin-positive mast cells in the skin (p< 0.05) and neuropeptide tyrosine (NPY)-containing nerve fibers in the thyroid (p< 0.01) of rats exposed to extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMF) compared to controls. This indicates a direct EMF effect on skin and thyroid vasculature. In the gastrointestinal tract, you will find corresponding types of cells guarding our interior lining against the outside world.
The immune system can react in an excessive manner and it can cause damage to the local tissue as well as generally to the entire body. Such events are called hypersensitivity reactions and they occur in response to three different types of antigens: (a) infectious agents, (b) environmental disturbances, and (c) self-antigens. The second one is, as you will Please cite this article in press as O. Johansson, Disturbance of the immune system by electromagnetic fields—A potentially underlying cause for cellular damage and tissue repair reduction which could lead to disease and impairment.
Dust triggers a range of responses because the particles are able to enter the lower extremities of the respiratory tract, an area that is rich in adaptive immune-response cells. These dust particles can mimic parasites and may stimulate an antibody response. If the dominant antibody is IgE, the particles may subsequently trigger immediate hypersensitivity, which is manifest as allergies, such as asthma or rhinitis. If the dust stimulates IgG antibodies, it may trigger a different kind of hypersensitivity, e.g. farmer’s lung.
Smaller molecules sometimes diffuse into the skin and these may act as haptens, triggering a delayed hypersensitivity reaction. This is the basis of contact dermatitis caused by nickel.
Drugs administered orally, by injection or onto the surface of the body can elicit hypersensitivity reactions mediated by IgE or IgG antibodies or by T-cells. Immunologically mediated hypersensitivity reactions to drugs are very common and even very tiny doses of drugs can trigger life-threatening reactions. These are well classified as idiosyncratic adverse drug reactions.
In this respect, electromagnetic fields could be said to fulfill the most important demand: they penetrate the entire body.
The hypersensitivity classification system was first described by Coombs and Gell. The system classifies the different types of hypersensitivity reaction by the types of immune responses involved. Hypersensitivity reactions are reliant on the adaptive immune system. Prior
exposure to antigen is required to prime the adaptive immune response to produce IgE (type I), IgG (type II and III) or T-cells (type IV). Because prior exposure is required, hypersensitivity reactions do not take place when an individual is first exposed to antigen. In each type of hypersensitivity reaction, the damage is caused by different adaptive and innate systems, each of which has its respective role in clearing
In essence, the immune system is a very complex one, built up of a large number of cell types (B- and T-lymphocytes, macrophages, natural killer cells, mast cells, Langerhans cells, etc.) with certain basic defense strategies. It has evolved during an enormously long time-span and is constructed to deal with its known enemies.
Among the known enemies one will not find modern electromagnetic fields, such as power-frequency electric and magnetic fields, radio waves,
TV signals, mobile phone or WiFi microwaves, radar signals, X-rays or artificial radioactivity.
They have been introduced during the last 100 years, in many cases during the very last decades. They are an entirely new form of exposure and could pose to be a biological “terrorist army” against which there are no working defenses.
They penetrate the body, and some have already proven to be fatal. Today no-one would consider having a radioactive wrist watch with glowing digits (as you could in the 1950s), having your children’s shoes fitted in a strong X-ray machine (as you could in the 1940s), keeping radium in open trays on your desk (as scientists could
in the 1930s), or X-raying each other at your garden party (as physicians did in the 1920s). In retrospect, that was just plain madness.
However, the persons doing so and selling these gadgets were not misinformed or less intelligent. The knowledge at the time was deficient, as was a competent risk analysis coupled with a parallel analysis of public needs.