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There is evidence that millimeter waves (MMWs) can have an impact on cellular function, including neurons. Earlier in vitro studies have shown that exposure levels well below the recommended safe limit of 1 mW/cm 2 cause changes in the action potential (AP) firing rate, resting potential, and AP pulse shape of sensory neurons in leech preparations as well as alter neuronal properties in rat cortical brain slices; these effects differ from changes induced by direct heating. In this article, we compare the responses of thermosensitive primary nociceptors of the medicinal leech under thermal heating and MMW irradiation (80–170 mW/cm 2 at 60 GHz). The results show that MMW exposure causes an almost twofold decrease in the threshold for activation of the AP compared with thermal heating (3.9 ± 0.4 vs. 8.3 ± 0.4 mV, respectively). Our analysis suggests that MMWs-mediated threshold alterations are not caused by the enhancement of voltage-gated sodium and potassium conductance. We propose that the reduction in AP threshold can be attributed to the sensitization of the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1-like receptor in the leech nociceptor. In silico modeling supported our experimental findings. Our results provide evidence that MMW exposure stimulates specific receptor responses that differ from direct thermal heating, fostering the need for additional studies.
1/01/18 → 31/12/22