Microwave diathermy induces mitogen-activated protein kinases and tumor necrosis factor-α in cultured human monocytes



Although rehabilitation practice for most patients consists of a combined use of thermotherapy that is produced from diathermy devices resulting faster and deeper heating to the patient, major concerns about occupational exposure to electromagnetic radiation for the operators must be considered. In most occasions, physiotherapists have involved multi-hour treatment sessions to different patients, resulting overuse of the diathermy device. Recently, our team along with other groups have raised serious concerns about the occupational safety aspects related to microwave diathermy (MWD) use. Driven by these recent reports, in this work, we tried to investigate the in vitro effects of a physiotherapist routine MWD device regarding its potential inflammatory biological effects that could be evoked in human cultured monocytes. Our results show that MWD does not alter the integrity of the cell membrane and, consequently, the viability of monocytes as assessed by Trypan blue and MTT measurements. Then again, members of the MAPK family (p38 and ERK1/2) were activated upon MWD exposure at 5–30 min, eventually leading to a time-dependent considerable increase in TNF-α production, a key pro-inflammatory mediator. Our results are indicative of a stress-activated phenomenon of monocytes upon MWD radiation, which could trigger potential hazardous cellular outcomes due to thermal and/or non-thermal bystander effects. Our results deserve further investigation, planned by our team in due course, to delineate the clinical correlations of these findings.

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