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The controversy regarding the ill effects of electromagnetic fields began in 1979 when Nancy Wertheimer and Ed Leeper claimed to have found a connection between childhood leukemia and power lines. In 1997, a group of researchers led by Martha Linet, M. D., attempted to provide evidence that there was no link between cancer and electromagnetic fields. The study showed that the risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia did not escalate with increasing electromagnetic field levels in the children's homes. When compared to the Earth's static magnetic field of 0.5 Gauss, these fields were extremely small. Within the past decade, magnets have been used to treat various medical conditions including arthritis and migraines. Magnetotherapy is the term coined for this alternative approach to medicine which requires placing medical magnets on painful areas to reduce soreness and accelerate healing. The actual mechanism by which, and to what extent, magnets affect the body is unclear. Recent experiments involving Xenopus embryos indicate that huge magnetic fields of approximately 17 Tesla 1 can change the second and third cleavage planes of development. These planes will orient, vertically or horizontally, to the direction of the applied magnetic field (Denegre, et. al. 1998). The potential effects of magnetic fields on the growth of human fibroblast cells were investigated in this study. Cell cultures were split and the new cultures were exposed to a one-TesIa magnetic field for approximately thirty-six hours during their growth phase. Half of the exposed cultures were counted for proliferation rate and the remainder of the cultures were analyzed for patterns of growth. An F test indicated that there was no significant difference in the growth rates between experimental and control cultures. A Chi square test was used to examine whether cells aligned themselves with the magnetic field during growth. The statistics showed that the data for the control and experimental groups were both significantly different from a random pattern. Since both the control and experimental groups had significant results, it can be concluded that the growth patterns of fibroblasts from the experimental group were no different than those in the control group. The results of this study indicate that magnets do not appear to have an effect on fibroblast growth rates or patterns. This work supports the contention that the reports of positive responses to magnetotherapy are due to a placebo effect. It also weakens the argument that electromagnetic fields cause cancer by increasing the growth rates of cells.


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