5G, Mitochondria & Coronavirus – A Tale of Depolarization

By Doris Loh

5G deployment has been referred to as “A Dangerous Experiment on Humanity” by media such as The NY Times [1]   There are numerous theories surrounding 5G, citing various mechanisms, including phased array technology [2], that may induce adverse health consequences.  Yet as of Feb 10th, 2020, the official position maintained by the US Food and Drug Administration which is responsible for radiation safety in the country, is that “The majority of studies published have failed to show an association between exposure to radiofrequency from a cellphone and health problems.” [3] 

The FDA has analysed the results from numerous studies and concluded that there were no clear evidence showing radio frequency energy exposure “at levels experienced by the public” could lead to tumorigenesis.  The key point used by the FDA to support their position is “localized exposure of radio frequency radiation (RFR) at levels that would be encountered by cell phone users” [4].

In addition, the FDA also highlighted potential flaws in the design and execution of in vivo animal studies, such as –

  • Failure to accurately determine the specific absorption rate (SAR) of exposures to radio frequency energy
  • Failure to use a reproducible source of radio frequency energy
  • Failure to verify the subject animal’s core temperature did not increase during exposure
  • The use of too few animals
  • Failure to include adequate controls (e.g., sham exposures that do not account for vibration or high frequency sound that accompany radio frequency exposure, lack of positive controls, etc.)
  • Incomplete reporting
  • Improper interpretation of results

Why is it so difficult to show the detrimental health effects at levels that are experienced by cell phone users in a controlled experiment?   For that answer, you will have to first understand the true mechanisms behind how EMR like 5G works inside the body.

Many studies on biological effects of non-ionizing radio frequencies show DNA damage [5 – 8] and oxidative stress [9-12], leading to a variety of diseases including infertility and neurodegeneration. Even though the direct relationship between RF exposure and many diseases cannot be easily demonstrated, the indirect relationship between oxidative stress and myriads of health conditions cannot be ignored. Oxidative stress is now considered to be the major cause of disease and aging [14]. 

Most of the studies on biological effects of radio frequencies identified the ability to regulate calcium ion channels as the main mechanism affecting oxidative stress [15].  

Is Calcium Efflux Good or Bad?

Radio frequency (RF) has been demonstrated to induce calcium ion efflux [16], where RF is observed to pump ions through channels and pores bound in bilipid membranes [17].  Yet interestingly, the effects of calcium efflux through the activation of voltage‐gated calcium channels (VGCCs) is not one-sided. 

Martin L Pall in 2013, published a paper on how various electromagnetic frequencies can activate voltage‐gated calcium channels (VGCCs) which often resulted in rapid increase of intracellular calcium ions, nitric oxide and sometimes dangerous free radicals like peroxynitrite.  However, the results of the activation of VGCCs can be either therapeutic or pathological [18]. Why?

Calcium efflux is a biological response that can lead to different outcomes. The influx of calcium ions through VGCCs is a necessary step in the initiation of apoptosis. A high level of calcium in mitochondria is essential to initiate apoptosis (cell death) [19].  Yet influx of calcium does not mean certain death for cells. 

In 2018, Kim et al. demonstrated that mice exposed to 4 weeks of 835 MHz RF-EMF at 4.0 W/kg SAR, 5 h per day responded with increased autophagy that actually INHIBITED apoptosis.  Increased autophagy changed genetic expression of calcium channels, ultimately affecting calcium homeostasis, inhibiting apoptosis [20]

That is why Danese et al. (2018) could not find ANY association between mobile phone use and DNA strand breaks.  Exposure of human lymphocytes to conventional 900 MHz RF emitted by commercial mobile phones for 30 minutes failed to demonstrate any effect on integrity of DNA in their experiments  [21]. Not only that, one study actually showed radio frequency could REDUCE subcutaneous abdominal fat [22]!

Are you intrigued?  Why would studies show such conflicting results?  For the answer, we will have to look deeper into how radio frequencies affect cells.  

Calcium Ions & Depolarization

Calcium ion movement across voltage‐gated calcium channels (VGCCs) is ALWAYS preceded by membrane depolarization. Depolarization opens VGCCs allowing ion movements across the channels [23]  Depolarization describes the loss of membrane potential (ΔΨm) in both cells and mitochondria where membrane potential rapidly changes from a negative to a positive state.   

The mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm) is the main source of chemical energy that is responsible for driving proton re-entry from the intermembrane space through the ATP synthase back into the mitochondrial matrix [24].  The maintenance of appropriate ΔΨm is critical for mitochondrial energy production as the energy available for ATP synthesis is directly derived from mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm). Depolarization translates into decreased energy available for ATP synthesis.  

Cold Thermogenesis Induce Depolarization

Many conditions can trigger depolarization in mitochondria. Cold temperature stress, such as those experienced during cold thermogenesis, activates mitochondrial depolarization [25]  Depolarization decouples oxidative phosphorylation via uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), allowing protons to leak back into mitochondria, releasing heat as a result, protecting the body from cold [26]. 

This type of depolarization that is induced by cold can lead to beneficial effects as depolarization can induce autophagy [27]. 

Autophagy is considered to be a cytoprotective mechanism triggered by cellular stress events such as oxidative stress and exposure to extreme temperatures such as cold and heat.  Autophagy is clearly a protective mechanism, as it can remove damaged proteins and organelles that would otherwise activate apoptosis (cell death) [28].  

So why would some studies show radio frequencies inducing autophagy, inhibiting apoptosis [20], while others show the opposite effect?

Ertilav et al. in 2018 convincingly demonstrated that adult rats exposed to 900 and 1800 MHz EMR resulted in mitochondrial membrane depolarization and apoptosis.  The key to this experiment is the duration of the experiment. The rats were exposed to radio frequencies for ONE WHOLE YEAR [29]. 

Why is the duration so important?  Because apoptotic pathways are activated when depolarized membranes cannot be repolarized [30,31]. 

ALL Electromagnetic Radiation Cause Membrane Depolarization

One would like to believe that only electromagnetic radiation from man-made devices can cause membrane depolarization. This is simply not true!  The sun’s magnificent UV rays have been shown to cause membrane depolarization in a dose dependent manner. Nguyen et al. clearly demonstrated that loss of mitochondrial membrane potential was most severe when cells were exposed at high dose to ionizing radiation [32]. 

A favorite frequency used by scientists and researchers to demonstrate depolarization effects is the 900 MHz used by mobile phones.  This frequency has been observed to cause apoptosis and oxidative stress via mitochondrial depolarization in breast cancer cells [33].  Another experiment found mice exposed to 900 MHz produced extensive DNA damage and cell cycle arrest in testicular germ cells as a result of mitochondria membrane depolarization that destabilized cellular redox homeostasis [34].

It was the work of Marchionni et al. (2006) that most elegantly revealed the difference between how low-level 50 Hz electromagnetic radiation and 900 MHz radio frequency act upon ion channels on membranes to cause depolarization.  Marchionni et al. found that cell membranes responded differently to different frequencies. Extremely low-frequency EMF like 50 Hz electric currents can indirectly modulate currents flowing through ionic channels through surface charge level changes.  Whereas 900 MHz frequencies affect changes in the orientation of hydrophilic phospholipids [35]. 

Blue Light Induce Depolarization

Even electromagnetic radiation in the visible light spectrum has been found to cause membrane depolarization.  Cells exposed to blue light for 24 hours resulted in depolarization of mitochondria and a significant overproduction of harmful reactive oxygen species [36].  Retina exposed to excess blue light will initiate apoptotic pathway as a result of mitochondrial membrane depolarization [37]. 

5G technology uses frequencies between 3 GHz to 100 GHz [38]   The corresponding wavelength between 3 GHz to 100 GHz would be 99.93 millimeters to 2.99792458 millimeters.  That is why 5G technology is also known as millimeter wave technology.  

How do millimeter waves affect membrane polarization?

Coronavirus & Depolarization – Is 5G the Trojan Horse?

As early as 2009, millimeter waves were found to interact with lipid membranes, leading to changes at the membrane-water interface where charged and dipolar residues are located [39].  Numerous studies showed microwave radiation induced cell apoptosis as a result of mitochondria membrane depolarization, chromatin condensation, and DNA fragmentation [40-43]

The COVID-19 and other coronaviruses like SARS-CoV encode proteins known as envelope (E) protein that can modify host cell membrane permeability in order to gain entry into host cells, promoting replication, release and proliferation.  These proteins are able to form ion channels to induce membrane permeability changes [44, 45]. 

Membrane permeabilization can be the direct cause of depolarization, leading to apoptosis.  The successful invasion by coronavirus envelope proteins as a result of membrane integrity already severely compromised from constant exposure to EMR is analogous to the role of the Trojan Horse in the fall of Troy. 

It is possible that the deployment of 5G technology exacerbated the vulnerability to attack by COVID-19.  However, the bulk of evidence presented points to the fact that all frequencies of EMR from those of the sun, to basic electricity, have the ability to alter membrane potential. 

If the sun can cause membrane depolarization, it can only mean that our body already successfully evolved mechanisms that protect against the detrimental effects of sustained depolarization that may lead to apoptotic cell death. 

The ability of mitochondria to shift and change shapes according to the level of environmental stress is key to understanding how humans can escape the ravages of high technology EMR as well as invasions by viruses such as COVID-19 …..  To Be Continued ………..



[1] NY Times https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/12/science/5g-phone-safety-health-russia.html

[2] https://5g-emf.com/how-5g-uses-phased-array-antennas-to-focus-the-mm-beams-damaging-dna-etc/

[3] https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/cell-phones/do-cell-phones-pose-health-hazard

[4] https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/cell-phones/scientific-evidence-cell-phone-safety

[5] Electromagnetic fields and DNA damage. – PubMed – NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19264461

[6] Extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields cause DNA strand breaks in normal cells https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3897901/ 

[7] Impact of radiofrequency radiation on DNA damage and antioxidants in peripheral blood lymphocytes of humans residing in the vicinity of mobile phon… – PubMed – NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28777669

[8] Whole-body exposures to radiofrequency-electromagnetic energy can cause DNA damage in mouse spermatozoa via an oxidative mechanism | Scientific Reports https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-53983-9

[9] Pathophysiology of cell phone radiation: oxidative stress and carcinogenesis with focus on male reproductive system | Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology | Full Text https://rbej.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1477-7827-7-114

[10] Impact of Long-Term RF-EMF on Oxidative Stress and Neuroinflammation in Aging Brains of C57BL/6 Mice https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6073444/

[11] Oxidative stress induced by 1.8 GHz radio frequency electromagnetic radiation and effects of garlic extract in rats. – PubMed – NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22788526

[12] Effects of electromagnetic fields exposure on the antioxidant defense system – ScienceDirect https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213879X17300731

[13] Electromagnetic Fields, Oxidative Stress, and Neurodegeneration https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijcb/2012/683897/

[14] Oxidative stress, aging, and diseases https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5927356/

[15] Crosstalk between Calcium and ROS in Pathophysiological Conditions https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2019/9324018/ 

[16] Radiofrequency radiation-induced calcium ion efflux enhancement from human and other neuroblastoma cells in culture. – PubMed – NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2540756

[17] Effects of Radio-Frequency Rectification at Single Ion Channels https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0709/0709.1896.pdf

[18] Electromagnetic fields act via activation of voltage‐gated calcium channels to produce beneficial or adverse effects – Pall – 2013 – Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine – Wiley Online Library https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jcmm.12088

[19] Calcium and apoptosis: facts and hypotheses. – PubMed – NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14634623/

[20] Exposure to 835 MHz RF-EMF decreases the expression of calcium channels, inhibits apoptosis, but induces autophagy in the mouse hippocampus https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5928341/

[21] Mobile phone radiofrequency exposure has no effect on DNA double strand breaks (DSB) in human lymphocytes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5515807/

[22] Non-contact radiofrequency-induced reduction of subcutaneous abdominal fat correlates with initial cardiovascular autonomic balance and fat tissue hormones: safety analysis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4431383/

[23] Depolarization – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/veterinary-science-and-veterinary-medicine/depolarization

[24] Coupling of Phosphorylation to Electron and Hydrogen Transfer by a Chemi-Osmotic type of Mechanism | Nature https://www.nature.com/articles/191144a0

[25] Depolarization‐activated calcium channels shape the calcium signatures induced by low‐temperature stress – White – 2009 – New Phytologist – Wiley Online Library https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1469-8137.2009.02857.x 

[26] Uncoupling Protein 1 of Brown Adipocytes, the Only Uncoupler: A Historical Perspective https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3355862/

[27] Induction of autophagy by depolarization of mitochondria: Autophagy: Vol 14, No 5 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15548627.2018.1436937

[28] Cleaning House: Selective Autophagy of Organelles https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5395098/

[29] Long term exposure to cell phone frequencies (900 and 1800 MHz) induces apoptosis, mitochondrial oxidative stress and TRPV1 channel activation in t… – PubMed – NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29332300

[30] Plasma membrane depolarization without repolarization is an early molecular event in anti-Fas-induced apoptosis. – PubMed – NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11050080 

[31] Characterization of depolarization and repolarization phases of mitochondrial membrane potential fluctuations induced by tetramethylrhodamine methy… – PubMed – NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15794752

[32] Effects of Dose Rate on the Reproductive Cell Death and Early Mitochondrial Membrane Potential in Different Human Epithelium-Derived Cells Exposed to Gamma Rays – Nguyen T. K. Vo, Marwan Shahid, Colin B. Seymour, Carmel E. Mothersill, 2019 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/155932581985250

[33] Selenium reduces mobile phone (900 MHz)-induced oxidative stress, mitochondrial function, and apoptosis in breast cancer cells. – PubMed – NCBI  – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24965080

[34] Selenium reduces mobile phone (900 MHz)-induced oxidative stress, mitochondrial function, and apoptosis in breast cancer cells. – PubMed – NCBI  – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24965080

[35] Comparison between low-level 50 Hz and 900 MHz electromagnetic stimulation on single channel ionic currents and on firing frequency in dorsal root ganglion isolated neurons – ScienceDirect https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005273606001015

[36] Blue light-induced apoptosis of human promyelocytic leukemia cells via the mitochondrial-mediated signaling pathway https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/ol.2018.8162

[37] Mitochondria as Potential Targets and Initiators of the Blue Light Hazard to the Retina https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2019/6435364/

[38] The Emergence of 5G mmWave – Accton Technology https://www.accton.com/Technology-Brief/the-emergence-of-5g-mmwave/ 

[39] The response of giant phospholipid vesicles to millimeter waves radiation – ScienceDirect https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005273609001175

[40] Neural Cell Apoptosis Induced by Microwave Exposure Through Mitochondria-dependent Caspase-3 Pathway https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3970093/

[41] Recent advances in the effects of microwave radiation on brains https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5607572/

[42] Microwaves from mobile phone induce reactive oxygen species but not DNA damage, preleukemic fusion genes and apoptosis in hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells | Scientific Reports https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-52389-x

[43] Electromagnetic Radiation from Cellphone Towers: A Potential Health Hazard for Birds, Bees, and Humans | IntechOpen https://www.intechopen.com/books/current-understanding-of-apoptosis-programmed-cell-death/electromagnetic-radiation-from-cellphone-towers-a-potential-health-hazard-for-birds-bees-and-humans 

[44] Expression of SARS-coronavirus envelope protein in Escherichia coli cells alters membrane permeability. – PubMed – NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15522242/

[45] Genomic characterization of the 2019 novel human-pathogenic coronavirus isolated from a patient with atypical pneumonia after visiting Wuhan: Emerging Microbes & Infections: Vol 9, No 1 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/22221751.2020.1719902


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