Noninvasive Therapy for Cartilage Regeneration

health medicine and biotechnology
Noninvasive Therapy for Cartilage Regeneration (MSC-TOPS-96)
Pulsed electromagnetic field device can restore life to damaged joints
Innovators at NASA Johnson Space Center researching time-variance magnetic field (TVMF) therapies have developed a pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) device that can alleviate cartilage degradation in synovial joints by promoting the growth of new cartilage. Joint disorders, whether induced by rheumatism, joint dysplasia, trauma, or surgery, often degrade cartilage and result in intense patient pain. Noninvasive and painless regeneration of a patients own tissue offers fewer side-effects than surgical joint replacement or tissue engineering procedures. The PEMF device could simply be wrapped around synovial joints where cartilage-degrading inflammation is located. This pulsed electromagnetic field technology is at a technology readiness level (TRL) 6 (system/sub-system model or prototype demonstration in an operational environment) and the related patent is available for licensing. Please note that NASA does not manufacture products itself for commercial sale.

The Technology
Research has shown that exposure of mammalian cartilage and bone tissue to tuned magnetic fields modifies genetic regulation at a cellular level. PEMF therapy relies on modulation and resonance of weak metals (ions) such as Ca2+, K+, Li+, and Mg2+ which can be made to move at the sub-cellular level when exposed to magnetic flux. This NASA technology is a device and method for modifying genetic regulation of cartilage and bone in response to PEMF therapy and may serve as the basis for development of novel therapies for cartilage diseases. In initial studies, cultured human chondrocyte cells (HCH) from patients with early-stage osteoarthritis were exposed to PEMF stimulation using a variety of tuned electro-magnetic pulse characteristics such as flux magnitude, slew rates, rise and fall times, frequency, wavelength, and duty cycle. Waveforms used in testing were monophasic, bi-phasic, square, sinusoidal, and triangular in nature. Frequencies were generally low, ranging from 6-500 Hz, and the waveforms used high rising and falling slew rates on the order of Tesla/sec, promoting pulses or bursts. Cellular catabolic and anabolic gene expression analyses comprised of fold-change (in expression) were accomplished by a survey of 47,000 human genes using an AFFYMETRIX Gene Array. Results show that variation of waveform used in PEMF therapies, independent of flux intensity, influences genetic regulation of HCH from patients with early-stage osteoarthritis.
Shown is a comparison of healthy and inflamed synovial joints.
  • Non-invasive: PEMF therapy requires no surgery or invasive procedure
  • Regenerative: PEMF therapy relies on upregulation of genetic factors to promote growth and restoration of compromised cartilage
  • Potential for FDA approval: PEMF therapeutic devices have been approved by the FDA for use in the stimulation of bone regrowth in artificial joint disunions

  • Medicine: treatment of cartilage degenerative joint disorders in patients resulting from rheumatism, trauma, or surgery
Technology Details

health medicine and biotechnology
MSC-24541-1 MSC-24541-2 MSC-24541-3
Stay up to date, follow NASA's Technology Transfer Program on:
facebook twitter linkedin youtube
Facebook Logo Twitter Logo Linkedin Logo Youtube Logo