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Papers of the Week

Papers: 8 Apr 2023 - 14 Apr 2023

Basic Science

Animal Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology


2023 Apr 07



Local analgesia of electroacupuncture is mediated by the recruitment of neutrophils and released β-endorphins.


Shi JT, Cao WY, Zhang XN, Wan HY, Su YS, Qu ZY, Wang R, He W, Jing XH, Wang XY


The efficacy of acupuncture in treating pain diseases has been recognized in clinical practice, and its mechanism of action has been a hot topic in academic acupuncture research. Previous basic research on acupuncture analgesia has focused mostly on the nervous system, with few studies addressing the immune system as a potential pathway of acupuncture analgesia. In this study, we investigated the effect of electroacupuncture (EA) on the β-endorphins (β-END) content, END-containing leukocyte type and number, sympathetic neurotransmitter norepinephrine (NE), and chemokine gene expression in inflamed tissues. To induce inflammatory pain, about 200 µL of complete Frester adjuvant (CFA) was injected into the unilateral medial femoral muscle of adult Wistar rats. Electroacupuncture treatment was performed for 3 days beginning on day 4 after CFA injection, with parameters of 2/100 Hz, 2 mA, and 30 minutes per treatment. The weight-bearing experiment and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay showed that EA treatment significantly relieved spontaneous pain-like behaviors and increased the level of β-END in inflamed tissue. Injection of anti-END antibody in inflamed tissue blocked this analgesic effect. Flow cytometry and immunofluorescence staining revealed that the EA-induced increase in β-END was derived from opioid-containing ICAM-1+/CD11b+ immune cells in inflamed tissue. In addition, EA treatment increased the NE content and expression of β2 adrenergic receptor (ADR-β2) in inflammatory tissues and upregulated Cxcl1 and Cxcl6 gene expression levels. These findings provide new evidence for the peripheral analgesic effect of acupuncture treatment by recruiting β-END-containing ICAM-1+/CD11b+ immune cells and increasing the β-END content at the site of inflammation.