Inventors Stimulate Cartilage With Electromagnetic Stimulation
Biloine W. Young • Wed, June 5th, 2013
This is the story of an incubator. The company, Minnesota Medical Physics, occupies one of a row of identical office spaces in a business center located in Edina, Minnesota. CEO Ali Jaafar and Principal Scientist Victor Chornenky, Ph.D., started the company in 2001 to develop “Innovative Solutions to Unmet Medical Needs.” Educated as a physicist, Jaafar is no beginner in business. After a career with Westinghouse, Johnson & Johnson and Becton Dickinson, he left his executive position to found his own company. Chornenky is a physicist whose career includes a university professorship in Moscow, physicist at Harvard and the Smithsonian, and visiting scientist at MIT.
Their approach is to look at a disease state and how it is being treated. If they feel that the existing treatment is adequate, they leave it and go on to another. If not, they look to see if a better treatment can be developed. “We make a comprehensive literature search on the nature of the disease, study and evaluate the newest scientific data on it. Then, based on the data, after long brainstorming, begin to develop new approaches to the treatment. We conceive a product, develop it into an initial prototype, test it, build a clinically suitable prototype and license it to other companies.” Their customers include several major medical device manufacturers.
It was perhaps inevitable that, in their search for better medical solutions to improve the quality of life and treatment, they would come upon osteoarthritis and the problem of deteriorating cartilage. Jaafar notes that the standard therapy for osteoarthritis is administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammation drugs (NSAID) and in severe cases, joint replacement surgery. He adds that the NSAID therapy is primarily focused on symptom relief, not on the underlying cause of the disease. The side effects of long-term usage of NSAID, he says, are severe.
In their research the two noted that, over the last decade, investigators have published a number of scientific articles suggesting that pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) stimulation, initially developed for treatment of non-union bone fractures, may be effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Jaafar and Chornenky anticipated the potential of PEMF combined with thermal stimulation and embarked on developing an appropriate delivery system. They envisioned that osteoarthritis, a progressive disorder characterized by cartilage degeneration, could be halted and perhaps even reversed by a combination of appropriately applied thermal stimulation and pulsed electromagnetic stimulation.
After six years of development of the osteoarthritis device, the two have found research papers that appear to support their original thinking. One paper is a Ph.D. dissertation by Italian Frederica Francesca Masieri who studied the therapeutic implications of pulsed magnetic fields in osteoarthritis pathologies. She concluded that PEMF alone can significantly reduce inflammation in osteoarthritic joints and replace NSAID drug therapy.
The second paper, published by the Journal of Orthopaedic Research, reported on multi-year studies carried on by the Department of Orthopedics, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, and Kyoto University. Researchers had found that the effect of mild electrical stimulation (MES) combined with heat stimulation (HS) raised HSP70 protein which plays a crucial role in protecting chondrocytes and stimulating cartilage matrix metabolism. Jaafar and Chornenky present this as the scientific basis for the device they have spent the last six years developing.
They have received a patent on their first product, called the NovoPulse. It is a wearable framework that positions a pad conducting both heat and electromagnetic stimulation to any location on the spine. The NovoPulse contains several microprocessors, controlling application of the PEMF and heat stimulation. Jaafar explains that, “We take an electrical current and run it through a set of treatment coils for a period of 50-100 microseconds, which creates the ideal conditions for the electrical field. When the pulse shuts off you have all of this magnetic energy that we capture and convert into heat.”
In 2011 Jaafar and Chornenky licensed the technology to a new company, called BioMagnetic Sciences, LLC (BMS). Initially BMS plans to market the invention as a pain management device, but their true long-term goal is a clinical trial to demonstrate that their combination of heat and PEMF stimulation can halt or even reverse the deterioration of cartilage. In the meantime, they have panel tests lined up with physicians overseas in the fall of 2013 and hope to soon have their product on the market.
In a 2012 paper on electromagnetic fields and the human body Chornenky wrote ,”The ability of pulsed electromagnet fields (PEMF) to regrow cartilage suggests the possibility of positive modification of the underlying condition of osteoarthritis, something that today’s medicine cannot do. PEMF stimulation could be a new effective treatment of the joints that potentially can slow down and even reverse osteoarthritis.”