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BMC Complement Altern Med. 2008 May 12;8:20. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-8-20.

Electroacupuncture activates corticotrophin-releasing hormone-containing neurons in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalammus to alleviate edema in a rat model of inflammation.

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  • 1Center for Integrative Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.



Studies show that electroacupuncture (EA) has beneficial effects in patients with inflammatory diseases. This study investigated the mechanisms of EA anti-inflammation, using a rat model of complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA)-induced hind paw inflammation and hyperalgesia.


Four experiments were conducted on male Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 6-7/per group). Inflammation was induced by injecting CFA into the plantar surface of one hind paw. Experiment 1 examined whether EA increases plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) levels. Experiments 2 and 3 studied the effects of the ACTH and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) receptor antagonists, ACTH(11-24) and astressin, on the EA anti-edema. Experiment 4 determined whether EA activates CRH neurons in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalammus. EA treatment, 10 Hz at 3 mA and 0.1 ms pulse width, was given twice for 20 min each, once immediately post and again 2 hr post-CFA. Plasma ACTH levels, paw thickness, and paw withdrawal latency to a noxious thermal stimulus were measured 2 h and 5 h after the CFA.


EA significantly increased ACTH levels 5 h (2 folds) after CFA compared to sham EA control, but EA alone in naive rats and CFA alone did not induce significant increases in ACTH. ACTH(11-24) and astressin blocked EA anti-edema but not EA anti-hyperalgesia. EA induced phosphorylation of NR1, an essential subunit of the N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor, in CRH-containing neurons of the paraventricular nucleus.


The data demonstrate that EA activates CRH neurons to significantly increase plasma ACTH levels and suppress edema through CRH and ACTH receptors in a rat model of inflammation.

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