Experimentally induced cartilage degeneration treated by pulsed electromagnetic field stimulation; an in vitro study on bovine cartilage

Francesca Veronesi, Milena Fini, Gianluca Giavaresi, Alessia Ongaro, Monica De Mattei, Agnese Pellati, Stefania Setti, Matilde Tschon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Osteoarthritis (OA) is the final result of progressive alterations to articular cartilage structure, composition and cellularity, followed by an increase in the concentration of pro-inflammatory cytokines in joint synovial fluid. Even though the effect of pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) stimulation in counteracting OA progression and inflammation is of increasing interest, because of its anabolic and anti-inflammatory properties, the present study aimed to improve the knowledge on cartilage extracellular matrix (ECM) and chondrocyte changes related to the exposure of PEMF, from a histological and histomorphometric point of view. Methods: An in vitro OA model was realized, culturing bovine cartilage explants with a high dose of interleukin 1β (IL1β, 50 ng/ml) at different experimental times (24 h, and 7 and 21 days). The effects of PEMFs (75 Hz, 1.5 mT) were evaluated in cartilage explants treated with IL1β or not (control), in terms of cartilage structure, cellularity and proteoglycans, glycosaminoglycans, collagen II and transforming growth factor β1 synthesis by using histology, histomorphometry and immunohistochemistry. Results: Making a comparison with control cartilage, IL1β-treated explants showed a decrease in cartilage matrix, structure and cellularity parameters. PEMFs were able to counteract the progression of OA acting on both cartilage cellularity and ECM in cartilage previously treated with IL1β. Normal distribution (Kolmogroc-Smirnov test) and homoscedasticity (Levene test) of data were verified, then, the non-parametric Kruskal Wallis test followed by Mann-Whiteny U test for pairwise comparisons were performed. The p-value was adjusted according to the Dunn-Sidak correction. Conclusions: These results, obtained by culturing and treating cartilage explants from two different joints, confirmed that PEMF stimulation can be used as adjuvant therapy to preserve cartilage from detrimental effects of high inflammatory cytokine levels during OA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number760
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Cartilage
  • Explants
  • Inflammation
  • Microenvironment
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pulsed electromagnetic field

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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