Evidence that electroacupuncture affects immunity through a specific dopaminergic neuroendocrine pathway

electroacupuncture affects immunity

A new study, published in the February 23, 2014 issue of Nature Medicine (Advance Online Publication) provides perhaps the first robust evidence that acupuncture’s effects are translated through specific neuroendocrine and immune pathways.

The way acupuncture affects human physiologic processes, and particularly immune function and homeostasis, is not well understood.

Acupuncture has always been considered part of  ‘Eastern’ medicine and a type of  ‘alternative’ medicine not typically utilized by clinicians in critical scenarios.

In the Nature Medicine study, Torres-Rosas et al. administer electroacupuncture to mice challenged with LPS or mice with polymicrobial peritonitis, in combination with neurectomies and vagotomies.

In LPS-challenged mice, electroacupuncture was found to inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokine production in a voltage-dependent manner, in non-adrenalectomized animals only, in addition to decreasing mortality, morbidity, and weight loss. Interestingly, sciatic neurectomy and vagotomy both abolished this anti-inflammatory effect.

Electroacupuncture use was associated with increased catecholamine levels, but only dopamine appeared to be required to inhibit TNF-production. This effect was most likely mediated by D1 receptors as the selective D1/dopamine receptor agonist fenoldopam prevented mortality in animals with polymicrobial peritonitis as did electroacupuncture.

These findings not only elucidate a heretofore unrecognized complex pathway for the potential efficacy of electroacupuncture in critically ill patients but also suggest additional therapeutic modalities that merit further research.

Source: Nature Medicine (2014) doi:10.1038/nm.3479

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