Electroacupuncture Promotes Recovery of Motor Function and Reduces Dopaminergic Neuron Degeneration in Rodent Models of Parkinson's Disease

Jaung-Geng Lin, Chao-Jung Chen, Han-Bin Yang, Yi-Hung Chen, Shih-Ya Hung
International Journal of Molecular Sciences 2017 August 24, 18 (9)
Parkinson's disease (PD) is a common neurodegenerative disease. The pathological hallmark of PD is a progressive loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra (SN) pars compacta in the brain, ultimately resulting in severe striatal dopamine deficiency and the development of primary motor symptoms (e.g., resting tremor, bradykinesia) in PD. Acupuncture has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat PD for the control of tremor and pain. Accumulating evidence has shown that using electroacupuncture (EA) as a complementary therapy ameliorates motor symptoms of PD. However, the most appropriate timing for EA intervention and its effect on dopamine neuronal protection remain unclear. Thus, this study used the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-lesioned mouse model (systemic-lesioned by intraperitoneal injection) and the 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP⁺)-lesioned rat model (unilateral-lesioned by intra-SN infusion) of PD, to explore the therapeutic effects and mechanisms of EA at the GB34 (Yanglingquan) and LR3 (Taichong) acupoints. We found that EA increased the latency to fall from the accelerating rotarod and improved striatal dopamine levels in the MPTP studies. In the MPP⁺ studies, EA inhibited apomorphine induced rotational behavior and locomotor activity, and demonstrated neuroprotective effects via the activation of survival pathways of Akt and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the SN region. In conclusion, we observed that EA treatment reduces motor symptoms of PD and dopaminergic neurodegeneration in rodent models, whether EA is given as a pretreatment or after the initiation of disease symptoms. The results indicate that EA treatment may be an effective therapy for patients with PD.

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