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Acupuncture's molecular effects pinned down
Date:5/30/2010

physical mechanism through which acupuncture reduces pain in the body," she added.

To do the experiment, the team performed acupuncture treatments on mice that had discomfort in one paw. The mice each received a 30-minute acupuncture treatment at a well known acupuncture point near the knee, with very fine needles rotated gently every five minutes, much as is done in standard acupuncture treatments with people.

The team made a number of observations regarding adenosine:

  • In mice with normal functioning levels of adenosine, acupuncture reduced discomfort by two-thirds.

  • In special "adenosine receptor knock-out mice" not equipped with the adenosine receptor, acupuncture had no effect.

  • When adenosine was turned on in the tissues, discomfort was reduced even without acupuncture.

  • During and immediately after an acupuncture treatment, the level of adenosine in the tissues near the needles was 24 times greater than before the treatment.

Once scientists recognized adenosine's role, the team explored the effects of a cancer drug called deoxycoformycin, which makes it harder for the tissue to remove adenosine. The compound boosted the effects of acupuncture treatment dramatically, nearly tripling the accumulation of adenosine in the muscles and more than tripling the length of time the treatment was effective.

"It's clear that acupuncture may activate a number of different mechanisms," said Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. "This carefully performed study identifies adenosine as a new player in the process. It's an interesting contribution to our growing understanding of the complex intervention which is acupuncture," added Briggs, who is the spouse of co-author Jurgen Schnermann.


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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom_rickey@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-7954
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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