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Effects of scalp electroacupuncture on the PI3K/Akt signalling pathway and apoptosis of hippocampal neurons in a rat model of cerebral palsy
  1. Hanhong Zhang1,
  2. Jing Gao2,
  3. Mengmeng Wang3,
  4. Xuefeng Yu3,
  5. Xiuhua Lv4,
  6. Huan Deng3,
  7. Xiangwei Fan3,
  8. Kaiyun Chen3
  1. 1The Fourth Clinical Medical College of Nanchang University, Nanchang, Jiangxi, China
  2. 2Huai’an Maternity and Child Care Hospital, Huan‘an, Jiangsu, China
  3. 3The Fourth Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, Nanchang, Jiangxi, China
  4. 4Life Science and Bioengineering of Beijing Agricultural University, Beijing, China
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jing Gao, Huai’an Maternity and Child Care Hospital, Huai’an, Jiangsu 223002, China; gaojing392{at} and Professor Xuefeng Yu, The Fourth Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, 133 Square South Road, Nanchang, Jiangxi 330003, China; yxf_1958{at}


Background Substantial evidence from clinical reports has established that most cerebral palsy (CP) patients benefit from a comprehensive rehabilitation exercise training programme. Such advances are enhanced when scalp electroacupuncture (EA), applied at a location corresponding to the projection of the motor area, is combined with rehabilitation exercise training. However, little information exists regarding the mechanistic basis for these effects.

Objective To examine whether EA stimulation within the scalp projection location of the motor area can inhibit apoptosis of hippocampal neurons by regulating the PI3k/Akt signalling pathway in a rat model of CP.

Methods Fifty male Sprague-Dawley rats underwent surgical modelling of CP. Five were used to confirm successful establishment of the model and the remaining 45 rats were randomly divided into one of three groups that remained untreated (CP group, n=15) or received EA treatment alone(CP+EA group, n=15)or EA in combination with a PI3K/Akt inhibitor(CP+EA+LY294002 group, n=15)). An otherwise healthy negative control group of rats undergoing sham surgery was also included (Control group, n=15). In the CP+EA and CP+EA+LY294002 groups, EA was applied to the scalp surface at alocation corresponding to the projection of the motor area. Basso, Beattie and Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor scores, hippocampal protein expression of Akt and p-Akt (by Western blot analysis) and neuronal apoptosis in hippocampal tissue (by histopathology) were assessed at 7, 14 and 21 days post-CP induction.

Results CP rats receiving scalp EA treatment demonstrated improved behavioural scores, less hippocampal neuronal apoptosis and higher expression levels of Akt and p-Akt (p<0.05) at all time points studied compared with untreated CP rats. There were no significant differences observed between CP+EA+LY294002 and untreated CP model groups.

Conclusions The effects of scalp EA on the PI3K/ Akt signalling pathway may represent one of the mechanisms involved in the inhibition of hippocampal neuronal apoptosis and improvement of deficits associated with CP in a rat model.

  • Electroacupuncture
  • Neurobiology
  • Neurology
  • Neurological
  • Rehabilitation Medicine

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  • Contributors JG and XY designed the study. HZ and JG carried out most of the experiments, collected the data and drafted the paper. MW, XL and HD performed some of the experiments. XF and KC performed the data analysis. XY revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final accepted version of the manuscript.

  • Funding This work was part of the Program on National Natural Science Foundation of China, grant number 81303035 and another Program on National Natural Science Foundation of China, grant number 81560795.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval All experimental procedures were approved by the local ethics review committee of Jiangsu Huai’an Maternity and Child Care (reference no. 030704/2014).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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