Recently, we identified a specific extremely low-frequency pulsed electromagnetic field (ELF-PEMF) that supports human osteoblast (hOBs) function in an ERK1/2-dependent manner, suggesting reactive oxygen species (ROS) being key regulators in this process. Thus, this study aimed at investigating how ELF-PEMF exposure can modulate hOBs function via ROS. Our results show that single exposure to ELF-PEMF induced ROS production in hOBs, without reducing intracellular glutathione. Repetitive exposure (>3) to ELF-PEMF however reduced ROS-levels, suggesting alterations in the cells antioxidative stress response. The main ROS induced by ELF-PEMF were •O2 and H2O2, therefore expression/activity of antioxidative enzymes related to these ROS were further investigated. ELF-PEMF exposure induced expression of GPX3, SOD2, CAT and GSR on mRNA, protein and enzyme activity level. Scavenging •O2 and H2O2 diminished the ELF-PEMF effect on hOBs function (AP activity and mineralization). Challenging the hOBs with low amounts of H2O2 on the other hand improved hOBs function. In summary, our data show that ELF-PEMF treatment favors differentiation of hOBs by producing non-toxic amounts of ROS, which induces antioxidative defense mechanisms in these cells. Thus, ELF-PEMF treatment might represent an interesting adjunct to conventional therapy supporting bone formation under oxidative stress conditions, e.g. during fracture healing.

Conflict of interest statement

Sachtleben GmbH (Hamburg) supported the study by providing 3 Somagen devices and chip cards for application, as well as financial support for the required assay material. Sachtleben GmbH did neither influence the study design nor the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data.


Ehnert S, Fentz AK, Schreiner A, Birk J, Wilbrand B, Ziegler P, Reumann MK, Wang H, Falldorf K, Nussler AK. Extremely low frequency pulsed electromagnetic fields cause antioxidative defense mechanisms in human osteoblasts via induction of •O2 and H2O2. Sci Rep. 2017 Nov 6;7(1):14544. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-14983-9. PMID: 29109418; PMCID: PMC5673962.