Medical Research

Dopamine mediates vagal modulation of the immune system by electroacupuncture.

Kristen Sparrow • September 26, 2021

I’ve probably written about this paper before, but it’s part of the point by point case for acupuncture activating anti-inflammatory effects by exploiting the immune system.  In this case, sciatic nerve electroacupuncture stimulates the vagus nerve to activate DOPA decarboxylase which leads to the production of dopamine in the adrenal medulla.  Dopamine inhibits cytokine production.  Sepsis- a leading cause of death and characterized by an overabundance of cytokines which overwhelms the body with inflammatory messengers.  In mice, electroacupuncture caused an anti-inflammatory response in mice with sepsis.

If electroacupuncture can tame sepsis, just think what it can do to more smoldering types of inflammation.

Full article at the link.  PDF heredopamine mediates the vagal modulation of the immune system Torres Rosas

Torres-Rosas R, Yehia G, Peña G, et al. Dopamine mediates vagal modulation of the immune system by electroacupuncture. Nat Med. 2014;20(3):291-295. doi:10.1038/nm.3479


Previous anti-inflammatory strategies against sepsis, a leading cause of death in hospitals, had limited efficacy in clinical trials, in part because they targeted single cytokines and the experimental models failed to mimic clinical settings. Neuronal networks represent physiological mechanisms selected by evolution to control inflammation that can be exploited for the treatment of inflammatory and infectious disorders. Here, we report that sciatic nerve activation with electroacupuncture controls systemic inflammation and rescues mice from polymicrobial peritonitis. Electroacupuncture at the sciatic nerve controls systemic inflammation by inducing a vagal activation of DOPA decarboxylase leading to the production of dopamine in the adrenal medulla. Experimental models with adrenolectomized animals mimic clinical adrenal insufficiency, increase the susceptibility to sepsis, and prevent the anti-inflammatory potential of electroacupuncture. Dopamine inhibits cytokine production via dopaminergic type-1 receptors. Dopaminergic D1-agonists suppress systemic inflammation and rescue mice from polymicrobial peritonitis in animals with adrenal insufficiency. Our results suggest a novel anti-inflammatory mechanism mediated by the sciatic and the vagus nerves modulating the production of catecholamines in the adrenal glands. From a pharmacological perspective, selective dopaminergic agonists mimic the anti-inflammatory potential of electroacupuncture and can provide therapeutic advantages to control inflammation in infectious and inflammatory disorders.