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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Electroacupuncture counteracts the development of thermal hyperalgesia and the alteration of nerve growth factor and sensory neuromodulators induced by streptozotocin in adult rats

L Manni, F Florenzano, L Aloe
Diabetologia 2011, 54 (7): 1900-8
21431457

AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Diabetes is considered the leading cause of neuropathies in developed countries. Dysfunction of nerve growth factor (NGF) production and/or utilisation may lead to the establishment of diabetic neuropathies. Electroacupuncture has been proved effective in the treatment of human neuropathic pain as well as in modulating NGF production/activity. We aimed at using electroacupuncture to correct the development of thermal hyperalgesia and the tissue alteration of NGF and sensory neuromodulators in a rat model of type 1 diabetes.

METHODS: Adult rats were injected with streptozotocin to induce diabetes and subsequently treated with low-frequency electroacupuncture for 3 weeks. Variation in thermal sensitivity was studied during the experimental course. Hindpaw skin and spinal cord protein content of NGF, NGF receptor tyrosine kinase A (TrkA), substance P (SP), transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) receptor and glutamic acid decarboxylase-67 (GAD-67) were measured after electroacupuncture treatments. The skin and spinal cord cellular distribution of TrkA was analysed to explore NGF signalling.

RESULTS: Early after streptozotocin treatment, thermal hyperalgesia developed that was corrected by electroacupuncture. The parallel increases in NGF and TrkA in the spinal cord were counteracted by electroacupuncture. Streptozotocin also induced variation in skin/spinal TrkA phosphorylation, increases in skin SP and spinal TRPV1 and a decrease in spinal GAD-67. These changes were counteracted by electroacupuncture.

CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: Our results point to the potential of electroacupuncture as a supportive therapy for the treatment of diabetic neuropathies. The efficacy of electroacupuncture might depend on its actions on spinal/peripheral NGF synthesis/utilisation and normalisation of the levels of several sensory neuromodulators.

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