Background Acupuncture has been associated with improved cerebral circulation, analgesia, neuromodulatory function and neurogenesis. In particular, acupuncture at ST36 has been widely used in several central nervous system (CNS) disorders, including neurodegenerative diseases. However, its effects on hydrocephalus have not been studied. Our aim was to evaluate the effects of acupuncture at ST36 on behaviour, motor development and reactive astrogliosis in infantile rats with hydrocephalus.
Methods Hydrocephalus was induced in sixteen 7-day-old pup rats by injection of 20% kaolin into the cisterna magna. One day after hydrocephalus induction, acupuncture was applied once daily (for 30 min) for a total of 21 days in eight randomly selected animals (HAc group) while the remaining eight remained untreated (H group). An additional eight healthy animals were included as controls (C group). All animals were weighed daily and, from the fifth day after hydrocephalus induction, underwent MRI to determine the ventricular ratio (VR). Rats were also exposed to modified open-field tests every 3 days until the end of the experiment. After 21 days all the animals were euthanased and their brains removed for histology and immunohistochemistry.
Results Hydrocephalic rats showed an increase in VR when compared with control rats (P<0.01). In addition, these animals exhibited delayed weight gain, which was attenuated with acupuncture treatment. Hydrocephalic animals treated with acupuncture performed better in open field tests (P<0.05), and had a reduction in reactive astrocyte cell density in the corpus callosum and external capsule, as assessed by GFAP (glial fibrillary acidic protein) immunohistochemistry (P<0.05).
Conclusions These findings indicate that acupuncture at ST36 has a neuroprotective potential mediated, in part, by inhibition of astrogliosis.
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Contributors JAT and CHRC performed all the experiments and wrote the article. CABG provided support for the animal surgery and was responsible for the experiment involving immunohistochemistry. ACS and CEGS designed and supported the experiment using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). LSL designed the study, supervised all the experiments and corrected the article. All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript accepted for publication.
Funding This work was supported by FAEPA (Fundação de Apoio ao Ensino, Pesquisa e Assistência do Hospital das Clínicas da Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto da Universidade de São Paulo) grant no. 466/2012.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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