Medical Research

Effect of electroacupuncture at ST36 on the cerebral metabolic kinetics of rheumatoid arthritis rats

Kristen Sparrow • October 01, 2023

This animal study looks at the effects of acupuncture on Stomach 36 on brain metabolism in rheumatoid arthritis rats.  The electroacupuncture improved the animals’ arthritic symptoms, but also altered their brain metabolic markers especially in the PAG, and hippocampus.

Liang F, Du L, Rao X, Li Y, Long W, Tian J, Zhu X, Zou A, Lu W, Wan B. Effect of electroacupuncture at ST36 on the cerebral metabolic kinetics of rheumatoid arthritis rats. Brain Res Bull. 2023 Sep;201:110700. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2023.110700. Epub 2023 Jul 4. PMID: 37414302.


Electroacupuncture (EA) has been shown to enhance the recovery of symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis (RA); however, the underlying mechanism remains unclear. Both the pathogenesis of RA and the therapeutic effects of EA are closely associated with the metabolic activity of the brain. In this study, we investigated the effect of EA at the “Zusanli” acupoint (ST36) on a rat model of collagen-induced rheumatoid arthritis (CIA). The results demonstrated that EA effectively alleviated joint swelling, synovial hyperplasia, cartilage erosion, and bone destruction in CIA rats. Additionally, the metabolic kinetics study revealed a significant increase in the 13C enrichment of GABA2 and Glu4 in the midbrain of CIA rats treated with EA. Correlation network analysis showed that changes in Gln4 levels in the hippocampus were strongly associated with the severity of rheumatoid arthritis. Immunofluorescence staining of c-Fos in the midbrain’s periaqueductal gray matter (PAG) and hippocampus demonstrated increased c-Fos expression in these regions following EA treatment. These findings suggest that GABAergic and glutamatergic neurons in the midbrain, along with astrocytes in the hippocampus, may play vital roles in the beneficial effects of EA on RA. Furthermore, the PAG and hippocampus brain regions hold potential as critical targets for future RA treatments. Overall, this study provides valuable insights into the specific mechanism of EA in treating RA by elucidating the perspective of cerebral metabolism.

Keywords: Electroacupuncture; Metabolic kinetics; Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy; Rheumatoid arthritis; ST36.