Terahertz Radiation: A Non-contact Tool for the Selective Stimulation of Biological Responses in Human Cells

Ibtissam Echchgadda, Jessica E. Grundt, Cesario Z. Cerna, Caleb C. Roth, Jason A. Payne, Bennett L. Ibey, Gerald J. Wilmink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Collective motions of water and of many biological macromolecules have characteristic time scales on the order of a picosecond. As a result, these biomolecules can strongly absorb terahertz (THz) radiation. Due to this absorption, THz radiation can exert a diverse range of effects on biological structures. For example, THz radiation has been shown to impact the structure, functional activity, and dynamics of macromolecules such as DNA and proteins. THz radiation can affect several gene expression pathways and, consequently, can alter various biochemical and physiological processes in cells. Indeed, THz radiation has been shown to influence the expression of several genes within different cell types. However, a complete view of the global transcriptional responses and the intracellular canonical pathways specifically triggered by THz radiation has not been elucidated. In this study, we performed a global profiling of transcripts in human cells exposed to 2.52 THz radiation and compared the exposure responses to a thermally-matched bulk-heating (BH) protocol. Our results show that both THz radiation and BH induce a significant change in the expression of numerous mRNAs and microRNAs. The data also show that THz radiation triggers specific intracellular canonical pathways that are not affected in the BH-exposed cells. This study implies that THz radiation may be a useful, non-contact tool for the selective control of specific genes and cellular processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7361772
Pages (from-to)54-68
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Terahertz Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell exposure
  • cellular response
  • global gene expression
  • miRNAs
  • mRNAs
  • signaling pathways
  • thermal effect
  • THz bioeffect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Terahertz Radiation: A Non-contact Tool for the Selective Stimulation of Biological Responses in Human Cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this