Thursday 13 August 2020
A new study has found that a modern version of acupuncture treatment may help eliminate the kind of uncontrolled inflammation that kills many Corona virus patients.
According to Russia Today, Harvard scientists found that mice with bacterial infection, who were treated with electric acupuncture, had levels lower than the 3 main types of cytokines – immune proteins that cause inflammation.
These proteins became relatively well known outside of medicine, as doctors discovered that they seemed to be responsible for the overwhelming inflammation that led to the death of many people with “Covid-19”.
Reducing levels of these inflammatory cytokines was a major goal of treatments for “Covid-19”.
The new study revealed that although mice were infected with a different type of infection, they were three times more likely to survive their disease as a result of treatment with the lethal cytokine acupuncture protocol, compared to mice that did not receive acupuncture.
The results indicate that acupuncture may be a useful complementary treatment for inflammation, but that it is used with caution before conducting human safety tests.
Acupuncture can be traced back to between 600 BC and 100 BC. It is considered one of the oldest practices of ancient Chinese medicine.
Some practitioners and patients swear by it as a treatment for everything from chronic pain to indigestion and migraines. Ironically, claims of its widespread benefit may have contributed to acupuncture’s reputation as sorcery.
Clinical studies have shown diverse results. Some have suggested that the benefits of acupuncture boil down to the “nocebo” effect, but a recent study found that compared to “placebo” acupuncture, patients treated with the real procedure got relief from indigestion and bloating.
In the United States, treatment has been increasingly integrated with Western medical practices, with the transition from “alternative” medicine to “complementary” medicine.
Dr. Chuu Ma, professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, is interested in learning how the treatment stimulates the nervous system and alters organ function, which correspond to different “acupuncture points” – areas of the external body where needles are carefully placed below the surface of the skin.
His interest also sparked a series of studies that suggested the possibility of using acupuncture to stimulate the vagus nerve, which acts as a kind of coordinator of the massive network of the parasympathetic nervous system and the central role in the inflammatory response.
In the new study, published in the journal Neuron, Dr. Ma and his team questioned whether acupuncture could help fight the inflammation caused by the infection as well.
Specifically, they examined the potential effects of acupuncture on sepsis-related inflammation, a survival-threatening complication of infections that afflict 30 million people worldwide and 1.7 million in the United States each year.
The research team placed tiny electrical needles under the skin of the hind legs of each mouse, where a low-grade electrical current running through the needles creates a micro-stimulus. And they saw that this actually activated the vagus nerve, triggering the release of dopamine, an anti-inflammatory neurotransmitter.
The animals that received this treatment showed lower levels of cytokines in their blood.
About 60% of the mice treated with acupuncture survived the infection, while only 20% of the untreated animals survived.
The effects of acupuncture became more pronounced when the stimulation was introduced, before the signs of a cytokine storm appeared, improving the survival rate from 20 to 80%.
“The results represent an important step in the ongoing effort, not only to understand the neuroanatomy of acupuncture, but to identify ways to incorporate it into the arsenal of treating inflammatory diseases, including sepsis,” said Dr. Ma.
And because the inflammatory response is similar to that seen in coronavirus patients, people with coronavirus may receive the same benefits – although the research team warns against using it before testing acupuncture on more animals and humans.