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Tissue Eng Part A. 2010 Mar;16(3):917-31. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEA.2009.0267.

Pulsed direct current electric fields enhance osteogenesis in adipose-derived stromal cells.

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  • 1Department of Mechanical Engineering, School of Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


Adipose-derived stromal cells (ASCs) constitute a promising source of cells for regenerative medicine applications. Previous studies of osteogenic potential in ASCs have focused on chemicals, growth factors, and mechanical stimuli. Citing the demonstrated role electric fields play in enhancing healing in bone fractures and defects, we investigated the ability of pulsed direct current electric fields to drive osteogenic differentiation in mouse ASCs. Employing 50 Hz direct current electric fields in concert with and without osteogenic factors, we demonstrated increased early osteoblast-specific markers. We were also able to establish that commonly reported artifacts of electric field stimulation are not the primary mediators of the observed effects. The electric fields caused marked changes in the cytoskeleton. We used atomic force microscopy-based force spectroscopy to record an increase in the cytoskeletal tension after treatment with electric fields. We abolished the increased cytoskeletal stresses with the rho-associated protein kinase inhibitor, Y27632, and did not see any decrease in osteogenic gene expression, suggesting that the pro-osteogenic effects of the electric fields are not transduced via cytoskeletal tension. Electric fields may show promise as candidate enhancers of osteogenesis of ASCs and may be incorporated into cell-based strategies for skeletal regeneration.

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