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Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine ›› 2009, Vol. 7 ›› Issue (8): 769-774.doi: 10.3736/jcim20090812

Special Issue: Acupuncture & Moxibustion

• Original Experimental Research • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of scalp acupuncture on acute cerebral ischemia-reperfusion injury in rats

Hong-xing Zhang,Qiong Wang, Li Zhou, Ling-guang Liu, Xuan Yang, Min Yang, Yin-ni Liu, Xuan Li   

  1. Department of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Wuhan Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine Hospitals Wuhan 430022,Hubei Province, China
  • Received:2009-04-23 Accepted:2009-06-10 Online:2009-08-20 Published:2009-08-15
  • Contact: Hong-xing Zhang


To explore the mechanisms of scalp acupuncture in treating cerebral ischemia in rats.


Sixty SD rats with middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) were randomly divided into untreated group and scalp acupuncture group. The scalp acupuncture was performed by inserting needles from Baihui (GV20) to Qubin (GB7), and the scalp was stabbed through 0.5 to 0.8 cun with a 30 degree angle. After a Han’s Electro-Acupuncture Apparatus was connected, we selected “disperse-dense” wave and alternated frequency of 2 Hz and 100 Hz at an intensity level of 2 mA, 30 min once daily. Another 10 SD rats without artery occlusion were taken as sham-operated control. Neurological severity score (NSS), hematoxylin and eosin (HE) staining, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) were applied to observing the changes of neurofunctional defect, the inflammatory infiltration in cerebral tissue and the contents of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) and transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-β1) in brain tissues after 24-, 48- and 72-hour reperfusion.

There were significant differences in NSS between the scalp acupuncture group and the untreated group (P<0.05, P<0.01) after 24-, 48- and 72-hour reperfusion, especially after 72-hour reperfusion. HE staining results of ischemic cerebral tissues showed an apparent reduction of inflamed lesions in the scalp acupuncture group as compared with the untreated group, especially after 72-hour reperfusion. The contents of COX-2 and NF-κB after reperfusion in the scalp acupuncture group were significantly lower than those in the untreated group in 24, 48 and 72 h (P<0.01, P<0.05), and the contents of TGF-β1 in scalp acupuncture group were significantly higher than those in the untreated group after 24-, 48- and 72-hour reperfusion (P<0.01).

Scalp acupuncture can attenuate cerebral ischemia-reperfusion injury, improve neurofunctional rehabilitation and suppress leukocyte infiltration in rats by decreasing the contents of COX-2 and NF-κB and enhancing TGF-β1 expression in brain tissues.

Key words: Scalp acupuncture, Brain sichemia, Reperfusion injury, Cyclooxygenase-2, NF-kB, Transforming growth factor-betal, Rats

Table 1

Neurological severity score of rats in different groups ($\bar{x}$±s)"

Group Neurological severity score
n 24 h 48 h 72 h
Sham-operated 10 0 0 0
Untreated 10 2.31±0.67** 2.11±0.57** 2.05±0.47**
Scalp acupuncture 10 1.92±0.58** 1.71±0.48** 1.31±0.45**△△

Figure 1

Pathological changes of brain tissues of rats in different groups (HE staining, ×400) A: Sham-operated group; B: Untreated group, after 24-hour reperfusion; C: Untreated group, after 48-hour reperfusion; D: Untreated group, after 72-hour reperfusion; E: Scalp acupuncture group, after 24-hour reperfusion; F: Scalp acupuncture group, after 48-hour reperfusion; G: Scalp acupuncture group, after 72-hour reperfusion. Arrows point to the inflammatory cells."

Table 2

Expressions of COX-2, NF-κB and TGF-β1 mRNAs in brain tissues of rats in different groups ($\bar{x}$±s)"

Group Time (h) n COX-2 NF-κB TGF-β1
Sham-operated 72 10 0.67±0.04 0.70±0.07 1.06±0.10
Untreated 24 10 4.95±0.49 3.25±0.61 1.53±0.49
48 10 2.61±0.80 1.75±0.41 3.22±0.25
72 10 1.72±0.49** 1.06±0.28* 3.29±0.28**
Scalp cupuncture 24 10 2.10±0.36△△ 2.19±0.58△△ 2.33±0.35△△
48 10 1.79±0.24△△ 1.10±0.32△△ 4.44±0.67△△
72 10 1.30±0.32** 0.51±0.13 4.54±0.20**△△

Table 3

Contents of COX-2, NF-κB and TGF-β1 proteins in brain tissues of rats in different groups ($\bar{x}$±s, μg/mg)"

Group Time (h) n COX-2 NF-κB TGF-β1
Sham-operated 72 10 11.29±1.78 6.20±0.88 10.91±1.86
Untreated 24 10 30.01±2.83 19.77±1.53 24.97±2.08
48 10 26.79±2.02 16.58±1.82 32.29±2.28
72 10 22.91±1.78** 15.02±1.08** 25.86±1.95**
Scalp acupuncture 24 10 21.03±1.99△△ 14.78±1.62△△ 27.73±2.13△△
48 10 18.91±1.12△△ 11.01±1.17△△ 34.63±2.04△△
72 10 13.70±1.93**△△ 10.28±1.33**△△ 29.34±1.30**△△
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