Objective To study the effects of repetitive manual acupuncture treatment on acute stress in mice and to explore its impact on the immune system.
Methods Thirty-six mice were randomly allocated to one of four groups: control, acupuncture, stress and acupuncture+stress (n=9 each). Mice in the two acupuncture groups were given daily acupuncture treatment superficially (to skin depth) at CV6, CV12 and bilateral ST25, LR14, GB20, GB21, BL10, BL11, BL13, BL14, BL19, BL23 and BL25 for 7 days. On the eighth day mice in the stress and acupuncture+stress groups were exposed to acute stress for 2 h by confinement in a 50 mL centrifuge tube. Body temperature, blood glucose, the number and subpopulation ratios of leucocytes in the liver, spleen and thymus, natural killer (NK) cell percentage cytotoxicity and serum corticosterone and interferon gamma IFNγ were quantified.
Results Mice exposed to stress (irrespective of acupuncture treatment) exhibited hypothermia and hyperglycaemia. However, the increase in glucose level was mitigated by repetitive acupuncture treatment (p<0.05). Percentage cytotoxicity and the level of corticosterone were significantly increased after stress but were unaffected by acupuncture. IFNγ levels did not differ between the groups. Hepatic innate immunity in the liver appeared to be stimulated by repetitive acupuncture treatment as proportions of extrathymic T cells, NK cells and NKT cells in the liver were greatest in the acupuncture+stress group and significantly increased relative to the control group.
Conclusions Repetitive manual acupuncture mitigated stress-induced hyperglycaemia and enhanced markers of innate immunity in the liver within the range of normal homoeostasis. As long as acupuncture stimuli were appropriately applied, they did not appear to be stressful to the mice.
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