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Brain Res. 2004 Sep 10;1020(1-2):12-7.

Involvement of opioid receptors in electroacupuncture-produced anti-hyperalgesia in rats with peripheral inflammation.

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Complementary Medicine Program, Center For Integrative Medicine, University of Maryland, 3rd Floor, James Kernan Hospital Mansion, 2200 Kernan Drive, Baltimore, MD 21207, USA.


Our previous study showed that electroacupuncture (EA) significantly attenuated inflammatory hyperalgesia. It has also been reported that EA analgesia in uninjured animals is mediated by mu and delta opioid receptors at 2-15 Hz and by kappa opioid receptor at 100 Hz. Because persistent pain changes neural response to external stimulation, we hypothesized that (1) the mechanisms of EA anti-hyperalgesia may be different under conditions of persistent pain and that (2) combining EA with a sub-effective dose of morphine could enhance EA anti-hyperalgesia. Hyperalgesia, decreased paw withdrawal latency (PWL) to a noxious thermal stimulus, was induced by subcutaneously injecting complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) into the hind paws of rats. Selective antagonists against mu (D-Phe-Cys-Tyr-D-Trp-Orn-Thr-Pen-ThrNH2, CTOP), delta (naltrinodole, NTI) and kappa (nor-binaltorphimine, BNI) opioid receptors were administered intrathecally 10 min before each of two EA treatments at acupoint Huantiao (GB30), one immediately post and the other 2 h post-CFA. Morphine was given (i.p.) 40 min before the second EA treatment. PWL was measured before and 2.5 and 5 h post-CFA. Both 10 and 100 Hz EA-produced anti-hyperalgesia were blocked spinally by mu- and delta- but not kappa-receptor antagonists. EA combined with a sub-threshold dose of morphine (2.5 mg/kg) enhanced anti-hyperalgesia additively (10 Hz EA) or synergistically (100 Hz EA) compared to that produced by each component alone. These results suggest selective involvement of mu and delta, but not kappa, receptors in EA-produced anti-hyperalgesia in rats. A combined EA and opioid drug protocol may provide an improved treatment strategy for inflammatory pain.

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