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Effect of Electro-Acupuncture on Neuroplasticity of Spinal Cord-Transected Rats

Xuyang Wang, Shiming Ju, Shiwen Chen, Wenwei Gao, Jun Ding, Gan Wang, Heli Cao, Hengli Tian, Xiaoli Li

Department of Neurosurgery, Shanghai Jiao Tong University Affiliated 6th People’s Hospital, Shanghai, China (mainland)

Med Sci Monit 2017; 23:4241-4251

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.903056

Available online:

Published: 2017-09-02

BACKGROUND: This study aimed to evaluate the effects of electro-acupuncture (EA) on neuroplasticity associated with the expressions of neurotrophic factors (NTFs) and their receptors in rats subjected to spinal cord transection (SCT).
MATERIAL AND METHODS: A total of 144 rats were randomly divided into 3 groups (n=48 per group): sham-operated group, SCT group, and EA (electro-acupuncture) group. Rats in SCT and EA groups received spinal cord transection at T10–T11 vertebral levels. Then, EA group rats received EA treatment. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction was used to detect NTFs and receptors at the mRNA level. In situ hybridization (ISH) and immunohistochemistry (IHC) were used to detect the expression of NTFs and their receptors. Basso, Beattie, Bresnahan (BBB) scores and cortical somato-sensory evoked potentials (CSEP) were evaluated to assess the recovery of motor and sensory functions. We also measured BDA (Biotinylated dextran amine) axonal tracing, CGRP (Calcitonin gene-related peptide), GAP-43 (Growth-associated protein), and synaptophysin immunohistochemistry (IHC).
RESULTS: EA treatment led to obvious improvement in hindlimb locomotor and sensory functions. CNTF, FGF-2, and TrkB mRNA were significantly upregulated, while NGF, PDGF, TGF-b1, IGF-1, TrkA, and TrkC mRNA were concomitantly downregulated in the caudal spinal segment (CSS) following EA. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated an increased number of CGRP fibers, GAP-43, and synaptophysin profiles in the CSS in the EA rats.
CONCLUSIONS: EA may promote the recovery of neuroplasticity in rats subjected to SCT. This could be attributed to the systematic regulation of NTFs and their receptors after EA.

Keywords: Spinal Cord Neuroplasticity, Electroacupuncture, Neurotrophic Factors