European network for innovative uses of EMFs in biomedical applications (2013-2017)

EMF-MED provides a cooperative framework to support the research on beneficial biological effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and their use in biomedical applications. Research on biological effects of EMFs has traditionally focused on health risks. Inspired by promising recent studies on useful biomedical EMF interactions and applications, this Action focuses on beneficial effects, aiming for breakthrough results, new discoveries and innovative biomedical technologies. The Action will provide a better understanding of underlying physical and biological interaction mechanisms, related to both cancer and non-cancer applications, filling the gaps in present state of knowledge. Ultimately, the Action aims to contribute to development and optimization of innovative EMF-based medical devices and procedures, which will be safer, more efficient and less invasive. Interdisciplinarity of the proposed topic and significance of the expected outcomes require a concerted research network at the European level.


The human body is intrinsically and essentially an electrical object, based on complex electrical functionalities. Possibilities for interactions between electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and the human body are numerous, ranging from ions and polarized molecules at the subcellular level to cellular electrical phenomena and tissue-level electrophysiology. However, not all known processes are fully understood, and more processes remain to be discovered.

The vast range of possibilities for interactions between EMFs and the human body raises a question whether currently unexplained or even unknown interaction mechanisms may be used for the benefit of human health. Some recently discovered potentially beneficial interactions are under investigation in various contexts, e.g. EMF-based cancer treatment, EMF exposure/stimulation of excitable tissues and cells for neurological, neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders, as well as EMF exposure/stimulation of non-excitable tissues in tissue healing, growth, or regeneration applications. Such mechanisms could be harnessed and employed in biomedical applications for the benefit of human health.

The aspiration to use electricity and magnetism for beneficial medical applications is not new – in fact, it is as old as the study of electricity itself. However, to be able to find, investigate, and make use of certain beneficial effects of EMFs, a whole set of pre-conditions have to be met: the extensive knowledge of life sciences – primarily medicine, biology, and biophysics, aided by modern methodology in molecular biology, chemistry and physics research, and on top of that, engineering apparatus in electrical engineering and bioelectromagnetics, consisting of modern technologies, measurement methods and instruments, computational simulation methods combined with sufficient computational power and accurate physiological models. All these should provide the scientific base for design and development of new healthcare technologies for routine applications, as well as for assessment of such technologies.

At the moment, only several applications are being or have been approved as medical devices for clinical use, but there is still much room for improvement and optimisation. Now is the time when the above pre-conditions are getting adequate to approach this research topic systematically, and exactly this will be achieved through COST Action EMF-MED.

Extensive expertise and several applicable methodologies are already at hand to the EMF community, resulting from the research on harmful effects of EMFs to humans, conducted in recent decades. However, that knowledge and methodology will now be applied to investigations of the shifted (or even opposing) paradigm – beneficial effects and innovative uses of EMFs in biomedical applications. This shift of focus (with respect to most other EMF projects and studies) could lead to breakthrough results, and to a deeper understanding of the biological interactions of EMFs (especially low-level EMFs and long term effects) with the human body, as a basis for innovative medical procedures. Such innovative EMF-based biomedical applications will give a significant boost to the current healthcare systems, by providing cost-effective therapeutic or diagnostic alternatives, revolutionizing the way we see medical treatment today.

Action EMF-MED forms a new, previously non-existing network; relying on the expertise already available in the European EMF community, with outreach to the researchers studying the beneficial applications, who have not been previously involved in past Actions on EMFs.

To illustrate the scientific potential, a brief selection of several important research topics, possibly leading to innovative biomedical applications of EMFs, are outlined here: