Beyond the Abstract - Cell phones and male infertility: A review of recent innovations in technology and consequences, by Alaa J. Hamada, MD

BERKELEY, CA (UroToday.com) - The cell phone technology is a vital part of our modern life and its use is expanding to not only the traditional voice conversations but also to deliver news, high resolution pictures, and Internet access.

These advances in cell phone technology are accompanied by a progressive boost in the intensity and frequency of the emitted electromagnetic waves (EMWs) to achieve better communication and services. Unfortunately, the health risks associated with their usage are often overlooked. Recently, emerging evidence from several studies supports a growing claim that cell phone usage may have a detrimental effect on sperm parameters leading to decreased male fertility.

The biological interaction of EMW with human tissue is complex. Our bodies act as parasitic antennas that receive these waves and convert them into electric and magnetic fields. The generated internal electrical currents are of much lower strength and of different directions from the external ones. These alterations in strength and direction reflect the electrical properties of human body, such as the permittivity and conductivity.

To understand these properties, human tissue is best described as lossy medium with dielectric properties due to high content of water - in addition to other organic molecules and ions. When living tissue is exposed to EMW the dielectric (dipole) molecules are polarized, the extent of such polarization is called permittivity. Conductivity, on the other hand, describes the conduction current density produced by an applied electrical field. Essentially, the high water content renders the human body a poor conductor to the applied electrical field. In contrast, the applied magnetic field is easily transmitted through the human body and this property is called permeability. Moreover, the magnetic field acts as another source of induced alternating currents inside the human body. The absorbed energy should ultimately influence biological activities via thermal and non-thermal mechanism. While thermal effects at the present level of cell phone radiation are negligible, most of the biological interactions are attributed to non-thermal effects.

The male reproductive system is a highly compartmentalized and sensitive biological system that requires the integration of intrinsic and extrinsic factors to properly function. The generated electrical currents may alter the hormonal milieu and testicular microenvironment necessary for sperm production. Additionally, sperm are electrically active cells and their exposure to cell phone electromagnetic waves and currents may affect their motility, morphology and even their count.

EMW-induced leaky plasma membranes, intracellular calcium depletion, and oxidative stress are the postulated cellular mechanisms mediating the harmful effects of cell phone radiation on sperm and male fertility potentials. Evidence for such impacts comes from published animal and in vitro studies which may be different from in vivo human exposure. Current research on EMW effects on fertility suggests tighter regulations on further increase in the power density of the emitted cell phone radiation and simultaneously more widespread efforts to conduct in vivo human research to study its negative effects on fertility.

Written by:
Alaa J. Hamada, MD as part of Beyond the Abstract on UroToday.com. This initiative offers a method of publishing for the professional urology community. Authors are given an opportunity to expand on the circumstances, limitations etc... of their research by referencing the published abstract.

Cell phones and male infertility: A review of recent innovations in technology and consequences - Abstract

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