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Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine ›› 2013, Vol. 11 ›› Issue (3): 213-219.doi: 10.3736/jintegrmed2013024

Special Issue: Acupuncture & Moxibustion

• Research Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of electroacupuncture at Zusanli (ST36) on inflammatory cytokines in a rat model of smoke-induced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Wen-ye Genga, Zi-bing Liua,b, Na-na Songa, Gui-hong Zhanga, Wei-zhong Jina, Wang Zhoua, Li Lia, Yin-xiang Caoa, Da-nian Zhua, Lin-lin Shena()    

  1. a. Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, Shanghai Medical College of Fudan University,Shanghai 200032, China
    b. Department of Physiology, Anhui College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hefei 230038, AnhuiProvince, China
  • Received:2012-12-05 Accepted:2013-02-27 Online:2013-05-10 Published:2013-05-15


Improvement in lung function was reported after acupuncture treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but little is known about the underlying mechanisms. Because an immune response imbalance could be seen in COPD, we hypothesize that electroacupuncture (EA) may play a role in regulating inflammatory cytokines and contribute to lung protection in a rat model of smoke-induced COPD.


A COPD model using male Sprague-Dawley rats exposed to cigarette smoke was established. The rats were randomly divided into four groups (control, sham, COPD, and COPD plus EA), and COPD model was evaluated by measuring pulmonary pathological changes and lung function. EA was applied to the acupuncture point Zusanli (ST36) for 30 min/d for 14 d in sham and COPD rats. Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) was used to measure levels of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), and malonaldehyde (MDA).


Compared with the control rats, COPD rats had significant changes in lung resistance (RL) and lung compliance (CL) (both P<0.01), bronchi and bronchiole airway obstruction (P<0.01), and levels of MDA, TNF-α, and IL-1β (P<0.01). There were no significant differences between the control and the sham groups. Compared with the COPD rats, the COPD plus EA rats had decreased RL and increased CL (both P<0.05), and reduced bronchi and bronchiole airway obstruction (P<0.05, P<0.01, respectively), while levels of TNF-α, IL-1β, and MDA in BALF were lowered (P<0.05 and P<0.01, respectively). However, TNF-α and IL-1β levels of the EA group rats remained higher than those of the control group (P<0.05).


EA at ST36 can reduce lung injury in a COPD rat model, and beneficial effects may be related to down-regulation of inflammatory cytokines. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects may prolong the clinical benefit of EA.

Key words: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Electroacupuncture, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Zusanli (ST36), Rats

Figure 1

Lung histopathological sections of rats in different groupsA and B: control; C and D: control plus EA; E and F: COPD; G and H: COPD plus EA. Hematoxylin and eosin (Light microscopy; original magnification: A, C, E and G, ×100 and B, D, F and H, ×400). COPD: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; EA: electroacupuncture."

Figure 2

Effects of of EA on level of MDA Data are expressed as mean ± standard error of mean, n=7; **P<0.01, vs control group; △△P<0.01, vs COPD group. COPD: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; EA: electroacupuncture; MDA: malondialdehyde."




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