Selective control of cell function by applying specifically configured, weak, time-varying magnetic fields has added a new, exciting dimension to biology and medicine. Field parameters for therapeutic, pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMFs) were designed to induce voltages similar to those produced, normally, during dynamic mechanical deformation of connective tissues. As a result, a wide variety of challenging musculoskeletal disorders have been treated successfully over the past two decades. More than a quarter million patients with chronically ununited fractures have benefitted, worldwide, from this surgically non-invasive method, without risk, discomfort, or the high costs of operative repair. Many of the athermal bioresponses, at the cellular and subcellular levels, have been identified and found appropriate to correct or modify the pathologic processes for which PEMFs have been used. Not only is efficacy supported by these basic studies but by a number of double-blind trials. As understanding of mechanisms expands, specific requirements for field energetics are being defined and the range of treatable ills broadened. These include nerve regeneration, wound healing, graft behavior, diabetes, and myocardial and cerebral ischemia (heart attack and stroke), among other conditions. Preliminary data even suggest possible benefits in controlling malignancy.
J Cell Biochem 1993 Apr;51(4):387-93
Bioelectric Research Center, Columbia University, Riverdale, New York 10463.