Low frequency pulsed electromagnetic fields exposure alleviate the abnormal subchondral bone remodeling at the early stage of temporomandibular joint osteoarthritis

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2022 Nov 16;23(1):987. doi: 10.1186/s12891-022-05916-3.


Background: Temporomandibular joint osteoarthritis (TMJOA) is characterized by abnormal subchondral bone remodeling and cartilage degeneration. As a non-invasive biophysical technology, pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) treatment has been proven to be efficient in promoting osteogenesis. However, the potential bone protective effect and mechanism of PEMF on abnormal subchondral bone remodeling in TMJOA are unknown.

Methods: Unilateral anterior crossbite (UAC) was used to create TMJOA model in rats, and 17β-estradiol (E2) were injected daily to mimic patients with high-physiological levels of estrogen. Mouse osteoblast-like MC3T3-E1 cells treated with recombinant murine IL-1β was used to establish inflammatory environment in vitro. The treatment group were subjected to PEMF (2.0mT, 15 Hz, 2 h/d). Micro-CT scanning, histological staining, real-time PCR and western blotting assays were preformed to observe the changes in the subchondral bone.

Results: Abnormal resorption of subchondral bone induced by UAC, characterized by decreased bone mineral density, increased osteoclast activity and expression of osteoclast-related factors (RANKL) and down-regulated expression of osteogenesis-related factors (OPG, ALP, Runx2 and OCN) at the early stage, could be reversed by PEMF exposure, which was similar to the effect of estrogen. In addition, PEMF exposure and E2 supplement may have a synergistic effect to some extent. Moreover, PEMF exposure could promote the ALP activity and osteogenic mineralization ability of MC3T3-E1 cells. PEMF promoted the expression of factors related to Wnt/β-Catenin signal pathway both in vivo and in vitro.

Conclusions: Appropriate PEMF exposure have a protective effect on subchondral bone in TMJOA at early stage, in which canonical Wnt/β-Catenin pathway may be involved. PEMF may be a promising biophysical approach for early intervention of TMJOA in clinic.

Keywords: Osteoarthritis; Osteogenesis; Pulsed electromagnetic field; Subchondral bone; Temporomandibular joint.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Remodeling
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Estrogens
  • Mice
  • Osteoarthritis* / pathology
  • Rats
  • Temporomandibular Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Temporomandibular Joint / pathology
  • beta Catenin


  • beta Catenin
  • Estrogens