Biophysical input, including electric and electromagnetic fields, regulate the expression of genes in connective tissue cells for structural extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins resulting in an increase in cartilage and bone production. In in vivo models and clinical situations, this can be manifested as enhanced repair and a gain in mechanical properties of the repairing tissues. The mechanisms by which cell functions are regulated by biophysical input is the subject of this review. Biophysical interactions of electric and electromagnetic fields at the cell membrane are not well understood and require considerable additional study. We review information on transmembrane signaling, channel activation and receptor stimulation or blockade. Understanding physical interactions and transmembrane signaling will most likely be necessary to establish dosing paradigms and improve therapeutic efficacy. Considerable information has been generated on an intermediary mechanism of activity - growth factor stimulation. Electric and electromagnetic fields increase gene expression for, and synthesis of, growth factors and this may function to amplify field effects through autocrine and paracrine signaling. Electric and electromagnetic fields can produce a sustained upregulation of growth factors, which enhance, but do not disorganize endochondral bone formation. Progress in the areas of signal transduction and growth factor synthesis is very rapid and future directions are suggested.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine