Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Emerging Technology from the arXiv

A View from Emerging Technology from the arXiv

How Magnetic Fields May Affect Biological Tissue

Magnetic fields may set up damaging currents within blood vessels, physicists argue.

  • April 9, 2009

How do magnetic fields affect biological tissue? An entire field of science called bioelectromagnetics has grown up to study this problem and yet nobody is quite sure how to answer this question.

It’s possible that several mechanisms may be at work and today Zakirjon Kanokov from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, and a few pals suggest a new one. They start by considering the way in which heat jiggles charge carriers in any system above absolute zero. This gives rise to tiny, unpredictable and rapidly varying changes in any current, a phenomenon known as Johnson noise.

Kanokov and co consider the case when the charge carriers are ions in a fluid flowing through a tube. The ions are free to move but obviously confined within a specific volume. The team then poses the question: what happens when you apply a static magnetic field?

The answer, they say, is a resonance effect in which the ionic currents grow stronger. The strength of the resonance depends on the size of the capillary and the strength of the field.

Kanakov and co have worked out how this effect might play out in the human body; after all the body is filled with calcium ions in a fluid flowing through narrow tubes.

They say that this kind of resonance can occur in the aorta at magnetic field strengths of a few picoteslas (10^-12 T) and in narrower capillaries at a few hundred microteslas. The Earth’s field is a few tens of microteslas.

That’s an interesting calculation that will need some careful testing.

The team go further and speculate that these ionic currents may disrupt blood flow and cause tissue damage. That’s a big jump that is not backed up by their calculations but an interesting conjecture nonetheless. But finding this effect against a background of all the other ways in which tissue becomes damage is going to be a devil of a task.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0904.1198: On the Influence of Weak Magnetic and Electric Fields on the Fluctuations of Ionic Electric Currents in Blood Circulation

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Online Only.
  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.