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Alarming evidence that normal levels of mobile phone radiation can harm the brain emerged from a new study today.
The research from Finland indicates that microwaves from cellphone handsets may increase leakage of the natural barrier that protects the brain from toxic substances.
If backed up by studies on human volunteers, the findings will send shock waves through the mobile phone industry.
An animal study by a French team is already believed to have lent further weight to the evidence, by showing that mobile phone radiation can promote leakage of the blood-brain barrier in rats.
Results from both investigations are due to be presented at a conference in Canada this month.
The Scandinavian study was led by Professor Darius Leszczynski, of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland.
Cells from blood vessel walls in the brain were placed in culture dishes and subjected to mobile phone radiation in the laboratory.
At a strength of two watts per kilogram, the radiation intensity was the maximum allowed internationally for mobile phones.
After an hour's exposure biochemical changes were seen in the cells which could alter the activity of about 400 proteins.
In particular one enzyme, called HSP 27, which helps to regulate blood-brain barrier permeability, was affected.
"If the same thing happened in real life, in people, then it could affect blood-brain barrier permeability by increasing it," said Professor Leszczynski.
As a result, molecules that cause damage to neurons may be allowed to invade brain tissue.