Terahertz Radiation Can Disrupt Proteins in Living Cells – Contradicting Conventional Belief

Terahertz Radiation Cells Illustration

Researchers from the RIKEN Center for Advanced Photonics and collaborators have discovered that terahertz radiation, contradicting conventional belief, can disrupt proteins in living cells without killing the cells.

This finding implies that terahertz radiation, which was long considered impractical to use, may have applications in manipulating cell functions for the treatment of cancer, for example, but also that there may be safety issues to consider.

Terahertz radiation is a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum between microwaves and infrared light, which is often known as the “terahertz gap” because of the lack so far of technology to manipulate it efficiently. Because terahertz radiation is stopped by liquids and is non-ionizing — meaning that it does not damage DNA in the way that x-rays do — work is ongoing to put it to use in areas such as airport baggage inspections. It has generally been considered to be safe for use in tissues, though some recent studies have found that it may have some direct effect on DNA, though it has little ability to actually penetrate into tissues, meaning that this effect would only be on surface skin cells.

One issue that has remained unexplored, however, is whether terahertz radiation can affect biological tissues even after it has been stopped, through the propagation of energy waves into the tissue. The research group from RAP recently discovered that the energy from the light cold enter into water as a “shockwave.” Considering this, the group decided to investigate whether terahertz light could also have an effect like this on tissue.

They chose to investigate using a protein called actin, which is a key element that provides structure to living cells. It can exist in two conformations, known as (G)-actin and (F)-actin, which have different structures and functions, as the (F)-actin is a long filament made up of polymer chains of proteins. Using fluorescence microscopy, they looked at the effect of terahertz radiation on the growth of chains in an aqueous solution of actin, and found that it led to a decrease in filaments. In other words, the terahertz light was somehow preventing the (G)-actin from forming chains and becoming (F)-actin. They considered the possibility that it was caused by a rise in temperature, but found that the small rise, of around 1.4 degrees Celsius, was not sufficient to explain the change, and concluded that it was most likely caused by a shockwave.

To further test the hypothesis, they performed experiments in living cells, and found that in the cells as in the solution, the formation of actin filaments was disrupted. However, there was no sign that the radiation caused cells to die.

According to Shota Yamazaki, the first author of the study, published in Scientific Reports, “It was quite interesting for us to see that terahertz radiation can have an effect on proteins inside cells without killing them cells themselves. We will be interested in looking for potential applications in cancer and other diseases.”

Chiko Otani, the leader of the research groups, says, “Terahertz radiation is coming into a variety of applications today, and it is important to come to a full understanding of its effect on biological tissues, both to gauge any risks and to look for potential applications.”

Reference: “Propagation of THz irradiation energy through aqueous layers: Demolition of actin filaments in living cells” by Shota Yamazaki, Masahiko Harata, Yuya Ueno, Masaaki Tsubouchi, Keiji Konagaya, Yuichi Ogawa, Goro Isoyama, Chiko Otani and Hiromichi Hoshina, 2 June 2020, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-65955-5

14 Comments on "Terahertz Radiation Can Disrupt Proteins in Living Cells – Contradicting Conventional Belief"

  1. Sorry to get a little off subject but if this is what happens to the human cells when exposed to Terahertz the what will happen to humans seeking to fly to other planets? Won’t all the radiation in outer space literally make it impossible for humans to travel long times in outer space? Seeing that that us humans can’t exist off this rotating rock we are on may I ask WHY ARE WE SPENDING TRILLIONS OF TAX DOLLARS ON NASA SO THAT THEY CAN TRY SOMETHING THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR US TO DO?

    • David McCune | June 2, 2020 at 6:42 am | Reply

      You a dum dum. NANA’s $22B budget is far below the trillion mark. There is much stronger radiation from our sun and other suns that NASA puts shielding into its vehicles to block. Even our satellites have shielding. I feel your brain needs more aluminium shielding against the 5G and Wifi signals the aliens have placed in your back yard.

    • Torbjörn Larsson | June 2, 2020 at 2:57 pm | Reply

      Terahertz waves are impractical to use because they are so hard to excite, in nature there seems to be some few exotic ions that emit in the THz range. And the cosmic microwave background has expanded photons into the microwave region only, so the major component is MHz instead of THz or a factor 10^6 away. [ http://thz.caltech.edu/siegelpapers/THzInstrumentsSpace.pdf ]

      But it’s electromagnetic radio emissions so is stopped by a spacecraft hull. The main problem with radiation for astronauts is solar wind eruptions and cosmic radiation. Solar wind is high energetic protons, interact strongly with protons in water in the body, but is also shielded by the craft water supply that will be rotated between the Sun and the crew when a solar storm hits. The cosmic radiation is less lethal and will have to be suffered – a trip to Mars may increase cancer lethality 3 % which is about half the increased cancer lethality of living in large cities. This is not impossible, as far as we know at the current state of the science.

      Nobody is spending much money on space. Most nations spends a few million USD equivalents on ESA, JAXA or what have you. US, China and Russia spends much more individually, but it is still small potatoes. The FY2020 NASA budget was 22.6 billion USD or ~ 0.5 % of the 4.6 trillion USD federal budget [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_of_NASA ].

      At the same time the FY2020 US military budget was 700 million USD or about 15 % of the federal budget – 30 times more than spent on NASA peaceful research and exploration [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States ].

    • Torbjörn Larsson | June 2, 2020 at 3:00 pm | Reply

      Terahertz waves are impractical to use because they are so hard to excite, in nature there seems to be some few exotic ions that emit in the THz range. And the cosmic microwave background has expanded photons into the microwave region only, so the major component is MHz instead of THz or a factor 10^6 away.

      But it’s electromagnetic radio emissions so is stopped by a spacecraft hull. The main problem with radiation for astronauts is solar wind eruptions and cosmic radiation. Solar wind is high energetic protons, interact strongly with protons in water in the body, but is also shielded by the craft water supply that will be rotated between the Sun and the crew when a solar storm hits. The cosmic radiation is less lethal and will have to be suffered – a trip to Mars may increase cancer lethality 3 % which is about half the increased cancer lethality of living in large cities. This is not impossible, as far as we know at the current state of the science.

      Nobody is spending much money on space. Most nations spends a few million USD equivalents on ESA, JAXA or what have you. US, China and Russia spends much more individually, but it is still small potatoes. The FY2020 NASA budget was 22.6 billion USD or ~ 0.5 % of the 4.6 trillion USD federal budget.

      At the same time the FY2020 US military budget was 700 million USD or about 15 % of the federal budget – 30 times more than spent on NASA peaceful research and exploration.

      [Links removed to not get hold up for moderation approval. But sources was an article on building THz receivers for space science, as well as Wikipedia articles on the US budget.]

  2. Richard j Kelly | June 2, 2020 at 11:41 am | Reply

    The concern about cumulative radiation exposure on any prolonged trip outside of the earth’s magnetic field is real and serious and not deserving of snarky responses. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_threat_from_cosmic_rays#:~:text=Estimates%20are%20that%20humans%20unshielded,roughly%20500%20to%201000%20mSv.

    • Torbjörn Larsson | June 2, 2020 at 3:02 pm | Reply

      It’s only serious mif you want to pass NASA ethical guidelines of the risk they put on their personnel. But everyone else will go, seems like – not too bad risk.

      I think the snark was prompted by the ridiculous claims of the OP.

  3. Does 5G radiation damage protein ?
    Is it similar to terahertz radiation damage?

    • Torbjörn Larsson | June 2, 2020 at 3:28 pm | Reply

      No, it is also non-ionizing and the frequency range have been studied for several decades for biological effects.

      Mind that you see a heating effect from any radar range signal since it heats water at ~ 1.6 GHz – an effect used in microwave ovens – and that heat can be used to damage proteins – see again microwave ovens. The effect was discovered during the WWII at British ground installations of first radar. Bad receivers and signal processing meant large transmitter effects, and when personnel walked around they eventually discovered a “sauna effect” – testicles were heated a few degrees and temporarily stopped producing viable sperm.

      The THz effect needs to be reproduced and understood. Meanwhile it may be a good idea to look at cancer rates, since cell division use the actin skeleton and cancer cells are promoted by division problems (see my stand alone comment). But it seems fairly weak results so far, these kind of results tend to go away.

      The moral of the story is perhaps to keep both head and balls cool!

    • It’s a non ionising radiation. So mostly no, it doesn’t damage any cell.
      However there are researches that claims that cell phone signals can induce hormesis, alter calcium channels.
      Others researches points out the abelian sandpile, and like birds how can use magnetic fields to navigate, due to particles spins could be in a tipping point, a small change due to presence of magnetic field could happen. No one knows how this works on human cells

  4. Donald J Brickham | June 2, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Reply

    Does 5G radiation damage protein? The answer is yes. First you have to understand that we live in a holographic universe. We are a hologram and frequencies and resonance affects us and our environment. Go to visioninconsciouness.org (Schumann’s Resonance)
    Best Regards,
    Donald J Brickham

  5. Torbjörn Larsson | June 2, 2020 at 2:32 pm | Reply

    Mechanical action, who would have thought – it’s a new wavelength range!? In any case, cells with actin filament formation problems won’t die but they will have trouble move – e.g. white blood cells – and replicate – so can possibly be cancerous if prolonged.

    1.4 degC temperature increase is a bit on the hefty side, holding a cell phone to your skin will increase about 1 degC only. Running a slight fever here, if whole body scan for drugs and explosives in airports.

    Also, if this is verified it shows how quickly we can discover biological problems with new technology.

  6. At what frequency are COVID 19 receptors susceptible to being cooked off the sphere with a flash of electromagnetic energy? If they are 1/4 wavelength what frequency do they match?

  7. No man has ever been on the moon. The United States is a nation that starts making money off of an invention once they figure out how to use it. That goes for ships, planes, trains ,etc. If we had been to the moon, they would be making money from sending people back and forth everyday. That’s how you know they have never been there.

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