New research examines the role of acupuncture in nerve regeneration of the brain following a stroke due to cerebral ischemia - a condition due to restricted blood flow to the brain. The research cites the ability of acupuncture to “promote the proliferation and differentiation of neural stem cells in the brain… accelerate angiogenesis and inhibit apoptosis.” The researchers note that the Conception Vessel (CV, Ren channel) and Governing Vessel (GV, Du channel) are effective acupuncture meridians to “prevent and treat neural injuries following cerebral ischemia.”
Recent studies demonstrate that neural stem cells (NSCs) in the brain have the “ability of self-duplication, self regeneration and continuous differentiation into neuron and neuroglial cells.” Studies show that acupuncture on the Conception and Governing Vessels promotes “proliferation and differentiation of NSCs in the ischemic brain.” Specifically, GV20 (Baihui) and GV26 (Shuigou) regulate cells which “increase the release of nerve growth factors (NGFs) to make nerve cells survive and axons grow, synthesize neurotransmitters, (and) metabolize toxic substances….” The research notes that needling CV24 (Chengjiang), CV4, (Guanyuan), GV26 (Shuigou) and GV20 (Baihui) “could inhibit excessive proliferation of the hippocampal astrocytes and promote cellular differentiation.” The research also notes that these points increase GFAP/NSE double-labeled cells. GFAP (glial fibrillary acidic protein) is a marker of astrocyte activation and NSE (neuron-specific enolase) is a marker of the neurons.
The research indicates that electroacupuncture on the CV channel increases growth factors in the brain. Electroacupuncture increased growth factors bFGF, EGF and NGF mRNAs in the sub-ventricular zone and the hippocampal dentate gyrus. Needling acupuncture points CV24 (Chengjiang), CV4 (Guanyuan) and CV3 (Qihai) up-regulated bFGF, EGF and NGF.
The research shows that acupuncture plays an important role in angiogenesis- the physiological process involving the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels. Acupuncture at GV20 and GV14 (Dazhui) increases neural repair following cerebral ischemia. These points increased the expression of VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) and Ang-1 (angioprotein 1) in the area of the ischemic focus. Both VEGF and Ang-1 are important angiogenic modulators. Needling GV20 and GV26 up-regulated VEGF, VEGFR (the receptor for VEGF) and Ang-2 (angioprotein 2) at the ischemic focus. The research also documents that acupuncture at GV20 and GV14 affects the contents and expressions of signal transducers and activators of transcription (STATs). STATs play an important role in Janus kinase (JAK-STAT)- a pathway that transmits information from chemical signals outside the cell, through the cell membrane and into gene promoters on the DNA in the cell nucleus (causing DNA transcription and activity in the cell). The researchers note that the influence of acupuncture on STATs indicates that acupuncture activates bodily self-protection and reduction of “apoptosis of the nerve cells in and around the ischemic focus.”
Research advances in treatment of cerebral ischemic injury by acupuncture of conception and governor vessels to promote nerve regeneration. Zhou-xin Yang, Peng-dian Chen, Hai-bo Yu, Wen-shu Luo, Yong-Gang Wu, Min Pi, Jun-hua Peng, Yong-feng Liu, Shao-yun Zhang, Yan-hua Gou. Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine, Jan. 2012. vol. 10, 1. Department of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Shenzhen Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, Guangdong Province, China.