AAT Bioquest

Induction of Neuritogenesis in PC12 Cells by a Pulsed Electromagnetic Field

The regeneration of nerve cells is something receiving considerable attention within the medical research community. As more and more individuals are being diagnosed with diseases related to the breakdown of neurons, partially the result of aging populations around the world, researchers are looking into effective ways to regrow cells as a potential therapy for these conditions. One promising area of study for this is related to rat PC12 cells, largely because they have been shown to differentiate into neurons when exposed to different factors, such as Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) and bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). The addition of NGF to PC12 cells has been shown to cause sustained activation of extracellular signal-related kinases 1 and 2 (ERK ½). It has also been observed that sustained activation of ERK ½ leads to neurite outgrowth and the development of phenotypic characteristics in PC12 cells. However, the underlying mechanisms connecting the activation of NGF receptors to neuritogenesis are not well understood. One aspect that has been looked at is the role of pulsed electro-magnetic fields (PEMFs) in promoting and aligning nerve regeneration, but their exact mode of interaction is unclear since PEMFs have been shown to have biological effects independent of the presence of NGF. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of PC12 subjected to PEMF stimulation alone is the focus of one study by Kudo et al. from the Tohoku University Graduate School of Dentistry in Japan.

Specifically, Kudo and his colleagues were interested in determining the ability to control neuritogenesis with a single PEMF of 700 mT, pulsed for a monophasic form at 0.172 Hz for various periods of time. To be able to obtain their results, the team needed to measure Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity, since this is closely associated with neuritogenesis. To do this, they used the Amplite® Colorimetric Acetylcholinesterase Assay Kit, an assay that uses DTNB to measure the thiocholine produced from the hydrolysis of acetylthiocholine by AChE. What makes this tool so effective is its ability to measure even the smallest AChE activity; it produces readings for AChE quantities as small as .1 mU in a 100 µL assay volume. This is critical as close measurement of AChE activity is essential for understanding the true effect of PEMF in neuritogenesis.

At the end of their study, Kudo et al. found that PEMF can independently induce neuritogenesis through MEK-ERK1/2. This opens the door to a whole new field of research related to neuritogenesis therapies since it suggests it can be done without factors such as NGF or BMP. While further research will be needed, this is promising news for the discovery of effective neuroregenerative treatments. The success of this study can be partially attributed to the researchers' ability to actively measure AChE activity. With the accuracy and robustness of the results obtained using the Amplite® Colorimetric Acetylcholinesterase Assay Kit, researchers were able to confidently examine the role of PEMFs in neuritogeneration and have found new avenues in discovering cures for some key human conditions.



  1. Kudo, Tada-aki, et al. "Induction of neuritogenesis in PC12 cells by a pulsed electromagnetic field via MEK-ERK1/2 signaling." Cell structure and function 38.1 (2013): 15-20.

Original created on May 3, 2017, last updated on May 3, 2017
Tagged under: