New research demonstrates that acupuncture protects the brain from deterioration due to strokes. In the study, researchers discovered that electro-acupuncture exerts an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain following a stroke that is caused by a transient cerebral ischemic injury, a sudden loss of blood supply to the brain.
The researchers discovered that electro-acupuncture treatment activates a special alpha-7 nicotinic receptor located in the brain, alpha-7nAChR. Modern research confirms that alpha-7 nicotinic receptors are involved in the reduction of inflammatory neurotoxicity due to stroke, heart attack, sepsis and alzheimers disease. Acupuncture helps to protect the brain by activating alpha-7nAChR receptors. Once activated, they inhibit the release of HMGB1, a protein responsible for inflammation and necrosis.
Measuring the shutting down of HMGB1 release following a stroke is one of the first examples of mapping the exact biochemical mechanism by which acupuncture reduces brain cell death following a stroke. This helps to explain several beneficial effects measured in the study: electro-acupuncture reduces infarct volume, improves neurological outcomes, and inhibited neuronal apoptosis. The researchers conclude that electro-acupuncture provides “strong protection against transient cerebral ischemic injury….”
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Journal of Neuroinflammation, 2012, 9:24. Electroacupuncture pretreatment attenuates cerebral ischemic injury through a7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor-mediated inhibition of high-mobility group box 1 release in rats. Qiang Wang, Feng Wang, Xin Li, Qianzi Yang, Xuying Li, Ning Xu, Yi Huang, Qiaomei Zhang, Xingchun Gou, Shaoyang Chen and Lize Xiong.