Medical Research

Electroacupuncture and the Septo-Hippocampal Cholinergic System

Kristen Sparrow • March 24, 2019

statue of Kuan Yin
Ancient Medicine Made Modern

I assume that the reason that there is an entire journal devoted to the hippocampus(!) is that it is essential to memory and laying down new memories.  So to focus on the workings of the hippocampus, and optimizing its function is relevant to the epidemic of dementia and Alzheimer’s dementia. Luigi Manni has done a body of interesting and important work in acupuncture and neurodegenerative diseases.
2019 Mar 14. doi: 10.1002/hipo.23088. [Epub ahead of print]

Electroacupuncture in rats normalizes the diabetes-induced alterations in the septo-hippocampal cholinergic system.


Diabetes induces early sufferance in the cholinergic septo-hippocampal system, characterized by deficits in learning and memory, reduced hippocampal plasticity and abnormal pro-nerve growth factor (proNGF) release from hippocampal cells, all linked to dysfunctions in the muscarinic cholinergic modulation of hippocampal physiology. These alterations are associated with dysregulation of several cholinergic markers, such as the NGF receptor system and the acetylcholine biosynthetic enzyme choline-acetyl transferase (ChAT), in the medial septum and its target, the hippocampus. Controlled and repeated sensory stimulation by electroacupuncture has been proven effective in counteracting the consequences of diabetes on cholinergic system physiology in the brain. Here, we used a well-established Type 1 diabetes model, obtained by injecting young adult male rats with streptozotocin, to induce sufferance in the septo-hippocampal system. We then evaluated the effects of a 3-week treatment with low-frequency electroacupuncture on: (a) the expression and protein distribution of proNGF in the hippocampus, (b) the tissue distribution and content of NGF receptors in the medial septum, (c) the neuronal cholinergic and glial phenotype in the septo-hippocampal circuitry. Twice-a-week treatment with low-frequency electroacupuncture normalized, in both hippocampus and medial septum, the ratio between the neurotrophic NGF and its neurotoxic counterpart, the precursor proNGF. Electroacupuncture regulated the balance between the two major proNGF variants (proNGF-A and proNGF-B) at both gene expression and protein synthesis levels. In addition, electroacupuncture recovered to basal level the pro-neurotrophic NGF receptor tropomyosin receptor kinase-A content, down-regulated in medial septum cholinergic neurons by diabetes. Electroacupuncture also regulated ChAT content in medial septum neurons and its anterograde transport toward the hippocampus. Our data indicate that repeated sensory stimulation can positively affect brain circuits involved in learning and memory, reverting early impairment induced by diabetes development. Electroacupuncture could exert its effects on the septo-hippocampal cholinergic neurotransmission in diabetic rats, not only by rescuing the hippocampal muscarinic responsivity, as previously described, but also normalizing acetylcholine biosynthesis and NGF metabolism in the hippocampus