PEMF (Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field) therapy is a new treatment option for multiple conditions associated with tissue damage and inflammation. Acting at a cellular level, PEMF up-regulates genes responsible for production of structural proteins and other biological agents that boost tissue restoration process. PEMF significantly reduces inflammation via a known adenosine pathway and suppresses pain associated with inflammation. The active component of PEMF is the electric field. The pulsed magnetic field serves only as a carrier capable of delivering electric field deep into human body. This is in accordance with Faraday’s law of inductance, which states that any changing magnetic field generates electric field.

The first significant success of PEMF therapy was the treatment of non-union bone fractures. The next logical step in further development of PEMF therapy is the treatment of osteoarthritis. Significant body of scientific and clinical evidence suggests that PEMF therapy can be a new modality of non-invasive and efficient osteoarthritis management. Amazingly, it holds promise not only to slow down the progress of osteoarthritis but even to reverse it, a goal that has been elusive for decades of efforts by medical science.

As compared to the bone treatment, the treatment of osteoarthritis has its own challenges. In treatment of osteoarthritis the major target of PEMF therapy is not bone but articular cartilage on the surfaces of the adjacent bones. Cartilage tissue is known for its low electrical resistance and slow metabolism. The first property leads to redistribution of applied electric field between the cartilage and adjacent bones in ratio of about 1:70, so only a small fraction of electric field is delivered actually to the cartilage. The second challenge is related to the absence of blood supply in cartilage tissue and its reliance upon the process of diffusion of nutrients from and metabolic waste to the blood vessels situated outside the cartilage.

Recently, BioMagnetic Sciences, LLC introduced NovoPulse, a thermally assisted PEMF therapy for treatment of low back pain. NovoPulse uses a plurality of strategically positioned electromagnetic coils to induce the electric field along the layer of the cartilage. This configuration allows for delivery of 100% of the electric field value into the total thickness of the cartilage and the subchondral bone tissue.

The low metabolism problem of cartilage is addressed by NovoPulse technology by delivering thermal stimulation to the treatment zone. The thermal stimulation provides higher diffusion of nutrients and cleaner metabolic environment. Importantly, it also induces production of heat shock protein HSP70 in chondrocytes. Significant presence of protein HSP70 causes multifold increase in chondrocytes metabolism. As a consequence, the rates of biochemical reactions responsible for the production of new cartilage markedly increase. It was demonstrated in animal trials, that after 20 min of thermal stimulation at 41oC the cartilage metabolism stayed high for up to 72 hours; the amount of proteoglycans and collagen II produced during this time was 4.5 to 7 times higher than that in the control. In addition to enhancing PEMF therapy, thermal stimulation blocks pain from the joint and creates comfortable experience for the patient.

In the latest study of Kyoto University of Medicine the effects of mild electrical stimulation (MES) and heat stimulation (HS) on content of heat shock protein HSP70 in cartilage were investigated. The major conclusion of the study is that combined electrical and heat stimulation induces significant concentration of protein HSP70 in articular cartilage and has an outstanding impact on protection of chondrocytes and enhancement of cartilage metabolism. The authors suggest that combined electrical and thermal stimulation can be a novel alternative therapy for osteoarthritis.

The Kyoto University of Medicine study provides the scientific foundation for the BioMagnetic Sciences technology referred to as “Thermally assisted PEMF therapy for treatment of osteoarthritis” and implemented in NovoPulse devices. The only significant difference is that the method of electrical stimulation used in NovoPulse is more advanced and suitable for human application, while the Kyoto study used electrodes for delivering the DC current.

According to thought leaders in the field, PEMF therapies are expected to have profound impact upon health and wellness and their cost worldwide.