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Front Neurosci. 2019 Feb 20;13:110. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.00110. eCollection 2019.

Peripheral Sensory Nerve Tissue but Not Connective Tissue Is Involved in the Action of Acupuncture.

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College of Korean Medicine, Daegu Haany University, Daegu, South Korea.
Clinical Medicine Division, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, Daejeon, South Korea.
Department of Physics, Yeungnam University, Gyeongsan, South Korea.


Acupuncture has been used to treat a variety of diseases and symptoms for more than 2,500 years. While a number of studies have shown that nerves are responsible for initiating the effects of acupuncture, several lines of study have emphasized the role of connective tissue in the initiation of acupuncture signals. To determine whether nerves or connective tissue mediate the action of acupuncture, we constructed a robotic acupuncture needle twister that mimicked the twisting of the needle by an acupuncturist, and we examined the role of nerves and connective tissues in the generation of acupuncture effects in rat cocaine-induced locomotion, stress-induced hypertension, and mustard oil-induced visceral pain models. Robotic or manual twisting of acupuncture needles effectively suppressed cocaine-induced hyperactivity, elevated systemic blood pressure or mustard oil-induced visceral pain in rats. These acupuncture effects were completely abolished by injecting bupivacaine, a local anesthetic, into acupoints. However, disruption of connective tissue by injecting type I collagenase into acupoints did not affect these acupuncture effects. Our findings suggest that nerve tissue, but not connective tissue, is responsible for generating the effects of acupuncture.


acupuncture; collagenase; connective tissue; peripheral sensory nerve; robotic acupuncture needle twister

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