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Neural Regen Res. 2018 Mar;13(3):477-483. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.228731.

Electroacupuncture and moxibustion promote regeneration of injured sciatic nerve through Schwann cell proliferation and nerve growth factor secretion.

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Department of Anatomy, School of Basic Medicine, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China.
Department of Anatomy, School of Basic Medicine, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine; Department of Internal Medicine, Shanghai Changhang Hospital, Shanghai, China.
Department of Anatomy, School of Basic Medicine, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai; Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Heze Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Heze, Shandong Province, China.


Using electroacupuncture and moxibustion to treat peripheral nerve injury is highly efficient with low side effects. However, the electroacupuncture- and moxibustion-based mechanisms underlying nerve repair are still unclear. Here, in vivo and in vitro experiments uncovered one mechanism through which electroacupuncture and moxibustion affect regeneration after peripheral nerve injury. We first established rat models of sciatic nerve injury using neurotomy. Rats were treated with electroacupuncture or moxibustion at acupoints Huantiao (GB30) and Zusanli (ST36). Each treatment lasted 15 minutes, and treatments were given six times a week for 4 consecutive weeks. Behavioral testing was used to determine the sciatic functional index. We used electrophysiological detection to measure sciatic nerve conduction velocity and performed hematoxylin-eosin staining to determine any changes in the gastrocnemius muscle. We used immunohistochemistry to observe changes in the expression of S100-a specific marker for Schwann cells-and an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to detect serum level of nerve growth factor. Results showed that compared with the model-only group, sciatic functional index, recovery rate of conduction velocity, diameter recovery of the gastrocnemius muscle fibers, number of S100-immunoreactive cells, and level of nerve growth factor were greater in the electroacupuncture and moxibustion groups. The efficacy did not differ between treatment groups. The serum from treated rats was collected and used to stimulate Schwann cells cultured in vitro. Results showed that the viability of Schwann cells was much higher in the treatment groups than in the model group at 3 and 5 days after treatment. These findings indicate that electroacupuncture and moxibustion promoted nerve regeneration and functional recovery; its mechanism might be associated with the enhancement of Schwann cell proliferation and upregulation of nerve growth factor.


Schwann cells; acupuncture; electroacupuncture; moxibustion; nerve growth factor; nerve regeneration; neural regeneration; peripheral nerve injury; proliferation; regeneration; sciatic functional index; serum

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