Background Electro-acupuncture (EA) treatment has been shown to decrease pain and improve the function of ovariectomised (OVX) rats with osteoarthritis (OA); however, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear.
Object We used OVX rabbits to replicate natural human menopausal processes and to evaluate whether EA could be used to prevent and treat postmenopausal OA.
Methods The rabbits were randomly divided into four groups of eight: a normal control group (NC), an OVX group, an ERT group (oestrogen replacement therapy after OVX) and an EA group (EA therapy after OVX). After the interventions, all of the animals were killed. Serum oestrogen levels and body weight were measured. The transcription of matrix metalloproteinase-13 (MMP-13) mRNA was detected using reverse transcriptase-PCR. Modified Mankin scores were used for histological assessment. Expression of MMP-13 in cartilage was determined by immunohistochemistry.
Results Both the EA group and the ERT group had increased serum oestrogen levels (p=0.028, p=0.037 respectively), as well as decreased expression of MMP-13 (p=0.000, p=0.000, respectively), relative to the OVX group. The body weight of the EA group was lower than that of the OVX group and the NC group (p=0.007), as well as the ERT group (p=0.010).
Conclusions EA could be a new method for preventing and treating postmenopausal OA by producing endogenous sex hormones that inhibit the expression of MMP-13 and cause weight loss with no side effects and a relatively low cost.