Background: Although pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMFs) are used to treat delayed unions and nonunions, their mechanisms of action are not completely clear. However, PEMFs are known to affect the expression of certain genes.
Questions/purposes: We asked (1) whether PEMFs affect gene expression in human osteoblastlike cells (MG63) in vitro, and (2) whether and to what extent stimulation by PEMFs induce cell proliferation and differentiation in MG-63 cultures.
Methods: We cultured two groups of MG63 cells. One group was treated with PEMFs for 18 hours whereas the second was maintained in the same culture condition without PEMFs (control). Gene expression was evaluated throughout cDNA microarray analysis containing 19,000 genes spanning a substantial fraction of the human genome.
Results: PEMFs induced the upregulation of important genes related to bone formation (HOXA10, AKT1), genes at the transductional level (CALM1, P2RX7), genes for cytoskeletal components (FN1, VCL), and collagenous (COL1A2) and noncollagenous (SPARC) matrix components. However, PEMF induced downregulation of genes related to the degradation of extracellular matrix (MMP-11, DUSP4).
Conclusions and clinical relevance: PEMFs appear to induce cell proliferation and differentiation. Furthermore, PEMFs promote extracellular matrix production and mineralization while decreasing matrix degradation and absorption. Our data suggest specific mechanisms of the observed clinical effect of PEMFs, and thus specific approaches for use in regenerative medicine.