F A C U L T Y   P R O F I L E 

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Special Lecturer (Retired)

Effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) on cells and reactions with DNA, as in the cellular stress response.


MARTIN BLANK earned PhDs in physical chemistry (1957) from Columbia University and in colloid science (1960) from University of Cambridge. He came to the department in 1959, retired as Associate Professor in 2011 and is now a Special Lecturer. His research has been on membranes, transport processes, excitation, and recently on health effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR). His book on health effects of EMR is due out at the end of 2013.

During his tenure, he had short-term appointments at 11 universities around the world, as well as at five industrial research labs and the US Office of Naval Research. He also organized many meetings, including two World Congresses on Electricity and Magnetism in Biology and Medicine, 4 Erice (Italy) Courses on Bioelectrochemistry, and he started the Gordon Research Conferences on Bioelectrochemistry. He has been Chairman of the Organic and Biological Division of the Electrochemical Society, President of the Bioelectrochemical Society, President of the Bioelectromagnetics Society, and has been on editorial boards of Journal of the Electrochemical Society, Bioelectrochemistry and Bioenergetics, Electromagnetic Medicine and Biology. He was editor of the 2009 special issue of Pathophysiology on EMR. He has published over 200 papers and reviews, as well as twelve edited books on electrical properties of biological systems, including the Proceedings of the First World Congress on "Electricity and Magnetism in Biology and Medicine", "Electromagnetic Fields: Biological Interactions and Mechanisms". He was one of the organizers of the online Bioinitiative Report, and edited the 2009 update in Pathophysiology.

Current Research

Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) has been used therapeutically for accelerated healing and pain control, but they have also been associated with adverse health effects. To understand these biological effects, we have been studying the interaction of low frequency EM fields with cells at both the cellular and molecular levels. Our studies with cells have shown that power frequency (60Hz) fields induce stress genes and stress response proteins in cells. The stress response is a protective mechanism induced by harmful environmental stimuli and is characterized by the synthesis of specific proteins that assist the renaturation and transport of damaged proteins. Our studies suggest that EMR initiates the stress response by interacting with electrons within DNA. We have identified a 900 base pair segment associated with the response to EMR, that when removed, eliminates the response, and when transfected into a reporter construct, causes the construct to become EMR responsive. We have also investigated EMR interactions at the molecular level through effects on three reactions, electron transfer in cytochrome oxidase, ATP hydrolysis by the Na,K-ATPase, and the Belousov-Zhabotinski (BZ) reaction (the catalyzed oxidation of malonic acid). All three reactions show:

• EMR accelerates the reaction rate, i.e., electron transfer rate
• EMR competes with the chemical force driving the reaction, so the effect of EMR varies inversely with the reaction rate
• Interaction thresholds are low, comparable to levels found in EMR-cancer epidemiology studies
• Effects vary with frequency, and there appear to be different optima for the reactions studied: ATPase (60Hz), cytochrome oxidase (800Hz), BZ (250Hz)

These properties, in addition to stimulation of DNA in the cellular stress response, are consistent with EMR effects on many biological systems through interaction with electrons moving during redox reactions and also within DNA. The ubiquity of EMR reactions with DNA and the low observed reaction thresholds indicate the need for greater caution and control over the spread of EMR in the environment.

Selected Publications

Blank M (2014) Overpowered: The Dangers of Electromagnetic Radiation (EMF) and What You Can Do About It. Seven Stories Press, 271pp.

Blank M (2014) Cell Biology and EMF Safety Standards. Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine. Posted online on August 25, 2014. (doi:10.3109/15368378.2014.952433)

Blank M (2012) Section 7, pp. 1-39. Evidence for Stress Response (Stress Proteins). In BioInitiative Report - A Scientific Perspective on Health Risk of Electromagnetic Fields. Published Online December 31, 2012

Blank M, Goodman R (2012) Electromagnetic fields and health: DNA-based dosimetry. Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine 31(4):243-249.

Blank M, Goodman R (2012) Electromagnetic Fields and Health: DNA-based Dosimetry. Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine. Early Online: 1–7, 2011 Copyright Q Informa Healthcare USA, Inc. ISSN: 1536-8378 print / 1536-8386 online DOI: 10.3109/15368378.2011.624662

Blank M, Goodman R (2011) DNA is a fractal antenna in electromagnetic fields (EMF). Internat. J. Radiation Biol 87: 409-15.

Goodman R, Lin-Ye A, Matthew S. Geddis MS, Wickramaratne PJ, Susan E. Hodge SE, Pantazatos S, Blank M, Richard T. Ambron RT (2009) Extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields activate the ERK cascade, increase hsp70 protein levels and promote regeneration in Planaria. International Journal of Radiation Biology, in press 85: 851–859.

Blank M, Goodman R (2009) Electromagnetic Fields Stress Living Cells. Pathophysiology, published on line, doi 10.1016/j.pathophys.2009. 10.01.006

Blank M, editor (2009) Special issue of Pathophysiology, devoted to Electromagnetic Fields. Published on line, doi 10.1016/j.pathophys.2009. 10.02.002

George I, Geddis MS, Lill Z, Lin H, Gomez T, Blank M, Oz MC, Goodman R (2008) Myocardial Function Improved by Electromagnetic Field Induction of Stress Protein hsp70. Journal of Cellular Physiology. 216: 816-823. Published Online: 4 March 2008 DOI: 10.1002/jcp.21461.

Blank M (2008) EMF Dose Defined by Biology. Bioelectromagnetics Society Newsletter, January-February, 200:6-7.

Blank, M. 2008. Protein and DNA Reaction Stimulated by Electromagnetic Fields. Bioelectromagnetic Biology and Medicine 27: 1-21.

Blank, M., and Goodman, R. 2007. A Mechanism for Stimulation of Biosynthesis by Electromagnetic Fields: Charge Transfer in DNA and Base Pair Separation. Journal of Cellular Physiology. Published Online: 9 Jul 2007 DOI: 10.1002/jcp.21198.

Blank, M. 2007. Section 7, pp. 1-40. Evidence for Stress Response (Stress Proteins). In BioInitiative Report A Scientific Perspective on Health Risk of Electromagnetic Fields. Published Online 31 August 2007 Section 7, pp. 1-40. http://www.bioinitiative.org/report/index.htm

Blank, M. 2005. A proposed explanation for effects of electric and magnetic fields on the Na,K-ATPase in terms of interactions with electrons. Bioelectromagnetics 26(8):591-597.

Blank, M., and Goodman, R. 2004. Initial interactions in electromagnetic field-induced biosynthesis. Journal of Cellular Physiology 199:359-363.

Blank, M., and Goodman, R. 2004. A biological guide for electromagnetic safety: The stress response. Bioelectromagnetics, 25(8):642-646.

Weisbrot, D., Lin, H., Ye, L., Blank, M., and Goodman, R. 2003. Effects of Mobile Phone Radiation on Reproduction and Development in Drosophila melanogaster. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 89: 48-55.

Blank, M., and Soo, L. 2003. Electromagnetic acceleration of Belousov-Zhabotinski reaction. Bioelectrochemistry 61: 93-97.Blank, M and Goodman, R (2003) Stress Protein Synthesis and Enzyme Reactions are Stimulated by Electromagnetic Fields. In Magnetotherapy: Potential Therapeutic Benefits and Adverse Effects. MJ McLean, S Engstr_m, RR Holcomb (eds), Floating Gallery Press, New York, pp. 19-28.

Goodman, R., and Blank, M. 2002. Insights into Electromagnetic Interaction Mechanisms. Journal of Cellular Physiology 192:16-22.

Blank, M., and Goodman, R. 2002. Interaction of Weak Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields with DNA: Mechanism and Biomedical Applications. IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science 30: 1497-1500.

Lin, H., Blank, M., Rossol-Haseroth, K., and Goodman, R. 2001. Regulating Genes with Electromagnetic Response Elements Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 81:143-148.

Blank, M., and Soo, L. 2001. Electromagnetic Acceleration of Electron Transfer Reactions. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 81: 278-283.

Blank, M., and Soo, L., 2001. Optimal Frequencies in Magnetic Field Acceleration of Cytochrome Oxidase and Na,K-ATPase Reactions. Bioelectrochemistry 53: 171-174.

Blank, M., and Goodman, R. 2001. Electromagnetic Initiation of Transcription at Specific DNA Sites. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 81: 689-692.

Blank, M., and Goodman, R. 2000. Stimulation of the Cellular Stress Response by Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields: Possibility of Direct Interaction with DNA. IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science 28:168-172.

Carmody, S., Wu, X.L., Lin, H., Blank, M., Skopicki, H., and Goodman, R. 2000. Cytoprotection by Electromagnetic Field-Induced hsp70: A Model for Clinical Application. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 79:453-459.

Lin, H., Blank, M., and Goodman, R. 1999, Magnetic Field-Responsive Domain in the Human HSP70 Promoter. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 75:170-176.

Blank, M. 1999. Mechanisms of Biological Interaction with Electric and Magnetic Fields. Plenary Lecture. Proceedings of Second World Congress for Electricity and Magnetism in Biology and Medicine. Bersani, editor, Plenum, pp. 21-25.

Goodman, R., and Blank, M. 1998. Magnetic Field Induces Expression of hsp70. Cell Stress and Chaperones 3:79-88.

Blank, M., and Soo, L. 1998. Enhancement of Cytochrome Oxidase Activity in 60Hz Magnetic Fields. Bioelectrochemistry and Bioenergetics 45:253-259.

Han, L., Lin, H., Head, M., Jin, M., Blank, M. and Goodman, R., 1998. Application of Magnetic Field-Induced Hsp70 for Pre-Surgical Cytoprotection. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 71:577-583.

Blank, M., and Soo, L., 1998. Frequency Dependence of Cytochrome Oxidase Activity in Magnetic Fields. Bioelectrochemistry and Bioenergetics 46:139-143.