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Extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields enhance the survival of newborn neurons in the mouse hippocampus

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Abstract

In recent years, much effort has been devoted to identifying stimuli capable of enhancing adult neurogenesis, a process that generates new neurons throughout life, and that appears to be dysfunctional in the senescent brain and in several neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. We previously reported that in vivo exposure to extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields (ELFEFs) promotes the proliferation and neuronal differentiation of hippocampal neural stem cells (NSCs) that functionally integrate in the dentate gyrus. Here, we extended our studies to specifically assess the influence of ELFEFs on hippocampal newborn cell survival, which is a very critical issue in adult neurogenesis regulation. Mice were injected with 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU) to label newborn cells, and were exposed to ELFEFs 9 days later, when the most dramatic decrease in the number of newly generated neurons occurs. The results showed that ELFEF exposure (3.5 h/day for 6 days) enhanced newborn neuron survival as documented by double staining for BrdU and doublecortin, to identify immature neurons, or NeuN labeling of mature neurons. The effects of ELFEFs were associated with enhanced spatial learning and memory. In an in vitro model of hippocampal NSCs, ELFEFs exerted their pro-survival action by rescuing differentiating neurons from apoptotic cell death. Western immunoblot assay revealed reduced expression of the pro-apoptotic protein Bax, and increased levels of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2, in the hippocampi of ELFEF-exposed mice as well as in ELFEF-exposed NSC cultures, as compared with their sham-exposed counterparts. Our results may have clinical implications for the treatment of impaired neurogenesis associated with brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases.

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