November 28, 2019

A team of scientists from Jacobs University led by Prof. Alexander Lerchl will examine the effects of 5G on human cells.

It should enable autonomous driving or smart factories: The introduction of the 5G mobile communications standard in the coming year is associated with high expectations, but also with fears about the health consequences of the technology. A team of scientists from Jacobs University under the direction of Alexander Lerchl, Professor of Biology and Ethics, will now examine the effects of 5G on human cells. The project is funded with 1.1 million euros by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection. It is connected with the creation of three new scientific posts at the private university.

From 2020, the next mobile generation 5G should be available. It will be up to 100 times faster than the previous 4G standard and enables real-time data transfers. In the first step of the introduction, frequencies are used that are already common in mobile communications today. In a few years, however, new frequency bands will be added in the ranges between 26 and 28 gigahertz and above 40 gigahertz. These frequencies are the topic of the research project.

“The absorption of the radio waves takes place exclusively in the upper skin layers. Using cell cultures of the skin, we will therefore investigate whether the gene information changes due to electromagnetic radiation, “explains Lerchl. To analyze the many thousands of genes requires bioinformatics expertise. Therefore, Professor Dr. Marc-Thorsten Hütt, systems biologist at Jacobs University. Also involved is Seibersdorf Labor GmbH from Austria, which designs and manufactures the exposure systems.

While the impact of existing mobile radio frequencies on humans has been well researched, Lerchl and his team are breaking new ground with this project, which has been set up for almost three years. “The exposure systems and the experimental design are particularly critical at these frequencies to avoid artifacts,” says the biologist. Prof. Lerchl is convinced: “We will achieve reliable results.”

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