Journal List > J Korean Soc Spine Surg > v.11(4) > 1035623

J Korean Soc Spine Surg. 2004 Dec;11(4):194-201. Korean.
Published online December 31, 2004.
Copyright © 2004 Korean Society of Spine Surgery
The Effect of Pulsed Electromagnetic Field in Human Intervertebral Disc Cell
Un-Hye Kwon, B.Sc., Seong-Hwan Moon, M.D., Hyang Kim, M.Sc., Kwang-il Lee, B.Sc., Ji-Ae Jun, B.Sc., Hak-Sun Kim, M.D. and Hwan-Mo Lee, M.D.
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.

Address reprint requests to Hwan-Mo Lee, M.D. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Yonsei University College of Medicine, #134 Shinchon-Dong, Soedaemun-ku, Seoul, 120-752, Korea. Tel: 82-2-361-5648, Fax: 82-2-363-1139, Email:

Study design

An in vitro experiment.


To assess the effect of pulsed sinusoidal EMF on human intervertebral disc (IVD) cells.

Literature Review Summary

Electromagnetic field (EMF) is known to modify some relevant physiological parameters of cells cultured in vitro, such as proliferation, synthesis, secretion of growth factors and transcription. EMF induces bone formation in delayed, non union and spinal fusion models. Also, the exposure of EMF has been shown to protect against the hazardous effect of smoking in the rabbit IVD.

Materials and Methods

Human IVD cells were three-dimensionally cultured in alginate beads and exposed to a 650Ω, 1.8millitesla magnetic flux density, 60Hz sinusoidal wave of EMF. The cultures were divided into the control and EMF groups, with various exposure times. The cytotoxicity, and DNA and proteoglycan syntheses were measured by the MTT assay, and [3H]-thymidine and [35S]-sulfate incorporation, respectively. RT-PCRs were performed for aggrecan, and collagen types I and II mRNA expressions.


There was no recognizable cytotoxicity in the EMF group, but cellular proliferation was stimulated (p<0.05). Newly synthesized proteoglycan, normalized by DNA synthesis, was decreased in the EMF group (p<0.05) as were the expressions of aggrecan (48hour exposure) and type II collagen (72 hours exposure) mRNA compared to the control group.


EMF seems to be hazardous in the synthesis of the chondrogenic matrix, while marginally beneficial in the cellular proliferation of human IVD cells.

Keywords: Electromagnetic fields(EMF); Intervertebral disc(IVD); Proteoglycan


Fig. 1
Electromagnetic field (EMF) generator A; Power source B; EMF generator C; Culture plate in EMF generator. EMF was exposed to IVD cells with 650, 1.8 millitesla magnetic flux density, 60Hz sinusoidal wave. Cultures were divided into control and EMF group with various exposure times.
Click for larger image

Fig. 2
Percent control of DNA synthesis measured by [3H]-thymidine incorporation (CPM). Control; cultures without EMF exposure, EMF: cultures with EMF exposure for 6, 24, 48, 72 hours.
Click for larger image

Fig. 3
Percent control of proteoglycan synthesis measured by [35S]-Sulfate incorporation (CPM). Control: cultures without EMF exposure, EMF: cultures with EMF exposure for 6, 24, 48, 72 hours.
Click for larger image

Fig. 4
Effect of EMF on the expression of aggrecan and collagen type I, II. A; The IVD cells were exposed to various times of EMF. Total RNA was isolated from cells and subjected to RT-PCR. A; The PCR products were separated on 2% agarose gels containing ethidium bromide, and then observed on an ultraviolet transilluminator. B, C, D; The expression of each band seen in A was quantified using an image analyzer. The results are presented as the percentage of the mRNA level relative to β-actin for each band.
Click for larger image


Table 1
Sequences of the RT-PCR Primers Used
Click for larger image

1. Fontanesi G, Dal Monte A, Rinaldi E, et al. The effect of low frequency pulsing of an electromagnetic field for the treatment of congenital and acquired pseudoarthrosis. J Bioelectricity 1984;3:155–175.
2. Traina GC, Fontanesi G, Costa P, et al. Effects of electromagnetic stimulation on patients suffering from non-union. A retrospective study with a control group. J Bioelectricity 1991;10:101–117.
3. Brighton CT. Advanced clinical applications of electromagnetic field effects: bone and cartilage. In: Brighton CT, Pollack SR, editors. Electromagnetics in biology and medicine. San Francisco: San Francisco Press; 1991. pp. 293-308.
4. Guizzardi S, Di Silvestre M, Govoni P, Scandroglio R. Pulsed electromagnetic field stimulation on posterior spinal fusions: a histological study in rats. J Spinal Disord 1994;7:36–40.
5. Goodman EM, Greenebaum B, Marron MT. Effects of electromagnetic fields on molecules and cells. International Rev Cytol 11995;58:279–338.
6. Hinsenkamp MG, Rooze MA. Morphological effect of electromagnetic stimulation on the skeleton of fetal or newborn mice. Acta Orthop Scand 1982;196 suppl:39–50.
7. Smith RL, Nagel DA. Effects of pulsing electromagnetic fields on bone growth and articular cartilage. Clin Orthop 1983;181:277–282.
8. Diniz P, Soejima K, Ito G. Nitric oxide mediates the e.ffects of pulsed electromagnetic field stimulation on the osteoblast proliferation and differentiation. Nitric Oxide 2002;7:18–23.
9. Chang K, Chang WHS. Pulsed electromagnetic fields prevent osteoporosis in an ovariectomized female rat model: A prostaglandin E2-associated process. Bioelectromagnetics 2003;24:189–198.
10. Libo AR, Williams TJ, Strong DM, Wistar RJ. Time varying magnetic fields: Effect on the DNA synthesis. Science 1984;223:818–819.
11. Shomura K. Effects of pulsing electromagnetic field on the proliferation and calcification of osteoblast-like cell line, MC3T3-E1. J Jpn Orthod Soc 1997;56:211–223.
12. Hambly MF, Mooney V. Effect of smoking and pulsed electromagnetic fields on intradiscal pH in rabbits. Spine 1992;17 Suppl:S83–S85.
13. McLeod KJ, Donahue HJ, Levin PE, Fontaine MA, Rubin CT. Electric fields modulate bone cell function in a density-dependent manner. J Bone Miner Res 1983;8:977–984.