Of Mice (Brains) and Men

By Jim McVeagh 09/01/2010

After all the scare stories about the dangers of cell phones the Herald carries an article today that is a delicious irony.

Mobile phones may improve memory – study

The headline is, of course, the usual media hyperbole. The study they are “interpreting” is one on mice that have been genetically engineered to develop a disease that is similar to Alzheimer’s. Mice with this gene developed significantly less disease after exposure to electromagnetic radiation of a similar spectrum to cell phones. The study even demonstrated that the EM radiation improved already effected mice, reducing the extent of their brain disease, rather than simply improving their symptoms.

The actual PDF of the whole study can be found here.

I take great delight in pointing out to the likes of Sue Kedgley  that a cell phone call a day might keep the nursing home away…

The Alzheimer’s Research Trust caution about reading too much into the study:

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said: “This research has been carried out in mice that mimic some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in people, so we don’t know if any similar effects will be seen in humans.

But this is not, strictly speaking, quite accurate. A Danish study I quoted in a previous post found reduced risks of hospitalisation for all types of dementia, indicating that the result for mice may indeed be applicable to humans. Interestingly, the Danish study dismissed the correlation thus:

As there is no biological evidence of a protective effect of mobile phones [1], alternative explanations are needed. One alternative is that the prodromal symptoms of these diseases reduce the likelihood of becoming a mobile phone user.

They failed to find convincing evidence of this hypothetical explanation. Perhaps because the correlation does indicate causation, in this case. Clearly, it is a line of research that should be actively pursued, now that we are passed the spurious fear of creating brain cancers.

This may go a long way to explain why the mice in my house use Nokia N95’s as skateboards…

Mind you, there is no other good use for an N95 that springs to mind.


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