Human osteoarthritic chondrocytes exposed to extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF) and therapeutic application of musically modulated electromagnetic fields (TAMMEF) systems: a comparative study

Rheumatol Int. 2013 Jun;33(6):1567-75. doi: 10.1007/s00296-012-2600-4. Epub 2012 Dec 23.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disease, characterized by matrix degradation and changes in chondrocyte morphology and metabolism. Literature reported that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can produce benefits in OA patients, even if EMFs mechanism of action is debated. Human osteoarthritic chondrocytes isolated from femoral heads were cultured in vitro in bidimensional (2-D) flasks and in three-dimensional (3-D) alginate beads to mimic closely cartilage environment in vivo. Cells were exposed 30 min/day for 2 weeks to extremely low-frequency electromagnetic field (ELF) with fixed frequency (100 Hz) and to therapeutic application of musically modulated electromagnetic field (TAMMEF) with variable frequencies, intensities, and waveforms. Cell viability was measured at days 7 and 14, while healthy-cell density, heavily vacuolized (hv) cell density, and cluster density were measured by light microscopy only for 3-D cultures after treatments. Cell morphology was observed for 2-D and 3-D cultures by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Chondrocyte exposure to TAMMEF enhances cell viability at days 7 and 14 compared to ELF. Light microscopy analysis showed that TAMMEF enhances healthy-cell density, reduces hv-cell density and clustering, compared to ELF. Furthermore, TEM analysis showed different morphology for 2-D (fibroblast-like) and 3-D (rounded shape) cultures, confirming light microscopy results. In conclusion, EMFs are effective and safe for OA chondrocytes. TAMMEF can positively interfere with OA chondrocytes representing an innovative non-pharmacological approach to treat OA.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cell Survival / radiation effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chondrocytes / radiation effects*
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Middle Aged
  • Music
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy*