New research reveals how acupuncture protects the brain in areas damaged by Parkinson’s disease. Scientists at the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Traditional Medicine have discovered two acupuncture points that prevent the breakdown of an important brain protecting enzyme, tyrosine hydroxylase. This enzyme helps the body to create L-DOPA, an important dopamine precursor and drug used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. It is now known that acupuncture prevents decreases of the L-DOPA creating enzyme in the thalamic portions of the brain thereby improving the motor function that is destroyed by Parkinson’s disease.
Loss of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra portion of the brain is a key pathology in Parkinson’s disease and tardive dyskinesia. The World Health Organization (WHO) scientists have discovered that acupuncture inhibits decreases of tyrosine hydroxylase in nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons thereby protecting dopamine neuron levels in the substantia nigra portion of the brain. Depletion of these neurons leads to Parkinson’s disease and acupuncture stimulation of acupoints GB34 and LV3 prevents depletion by sustaining tyrosine hydroxylase levels.
About the Acupoints
Acupuncture point LV3 has been historically used to treat tremors such as those associated with Parkinson’s disease. It is located on the dorsum of the foot in the fossa between the first and second metatarsal bones. Its traditional classifications in Chinese medicine theory include: shu-stream point, source point, earth point, heavenly star point. Traditional functions of the point include: move Liver Qi, quell Liver Yang and wind, nourish the Liver, regulate menstruation, stop pain and clear the head and eyes. Common applications for the use of LV3 (Great Rushing, Taichong) include the treatment of menstrual disorders, headaches, dizziness, epilepsy, tremors, high blood pressure, insomnia and blurry vision.
Acupuncture point GB34 has been historically used to treat a variety of conditions including hemiplegia, total paralysis of the arm, leg and trunk on one side of the body. Common usage by licensed acupuncturists includes the treatment of tendon, ligament and joint disorders. Traditional classifications for this acupoint are: He-Sea, earth point, influential point of the tendons, heavenly star point. GB34 is indicated for the treatment of pain related conditions such as sciatica, hip pain, joint pain, muscle pain, tendon pain and knee pain.
According to Chinese medicine theory, both acupuncture points harmonize the Shaoyang channel. This makes both points well suited to treat disorders associated with tremors and other symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. Further research is required to determine whether or not other acupoints that harmonize the Shaoyang channel prevent decreases of tyrosine hydroxylase in the brain.
Gene. 9 December 2012. Neuroprotective Changes of Thalamic Degeneration-Related Gene Expression by Acupuncture in an MPTP Mouse Model of Parkinsonism: Microarray Analysis. Sujung Yeo, Yeong-Gon Choi, Yeon-Mi Hong, Sabina Lim. Research Group of Pain and Neuroscience, WHO Collaborating Center for Traditional Medicine, East–west Medical Research Institute, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Republic of Korea. Department of Basic Oriental Medical Science, College of Oriental Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.