Medical Research

Fertility Acupuncture study in Animals

Kristen Sparrow • August 25, 2012

Stener-Victorin is the “go to” researcher on acupuncture fertility.  I’ve corresponded with her and shared lunch at conferences and discussed the issues of HRV and fertility. (PCOS patients tend to have high sympathetic tone.)  This study is of interest to me because in my own practice, I’ve found that the HRV  response is more positive in fertility patients without electrical stimulation. The fertility protocol calls for electro-acupuncture, so for me was a quandary since I am always inclined to increase HRV whenever possible, but found it hard to do with the fertility protocol.  This study allows for shades of gray (wow, really don’t want to use THAT metaphor) in the quest for optimal fertility.  An incredible study, with lots of treatment over a long period, albeit in rats.  Excerpts highlighted below.

Exp Physiol. 2012 May;97(5):651-62. Epub 2012 Feb 15.
Electrical and manual acupuncture stimulation affect oestrous cyclicity and neuroendocrine function in an 5α-
dihydrotestosterone-induced rat polycystic ovary syndrome model.
Feng Y, Johansson J, Shao R, Mannerås-Holm L, Billig H, Stener-Victorin E
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg,
Both low-frequency electro-acupuncture (EA) and manual acupuncture improve menstrual frequency and decrease circulating androgens in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). We sought to determine whether low-frequency EA is more effective than manual stimulation in regulating disturbed oestrous cyclicity in rats with PCOS induced by 5α-dihydrotestosterone. To identify the central mechanisms of the effects of stimulation, we assessed hypothalamic mRNA expression of molecules that regulate reproductive and neuroendocrine function. From age 70 days, rats received 2 Hz EA or manual stimulation with the needles five times per week for 4-5 weeks; untreated rats served as control animals.
Specific hypothalamic nuclei were obtained by laser microdissection, and mRNA expression was measured with TaqMan low-density arrays. Untreated rats were acyclic. During the last 2 weeks of treatment, seven of eight (88%) rats in the EA group had epithelial keratinocytes, demonstrating oestrous cycle change (P = 0.034 versus control rats). In the manual group, five of eight (62%) rats had oestrous cycle changes (n.s. versus control animals). The mRNA expression of the opioid receptors Oprk1 and Oprm1 in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus was lower in the EA group than in untreated control rats. The mRNA expression of the steroid hormone receptors Esr2, Pgr and Kiss1r was lower in the manual group than in the control animals. In rats with 5α-dihydrotestosterone-induced PCOS, low-frequency EA restored disturbed oestrous cyclicity but did not differ from the manual stimulation group, although electrical stimulation lowered serum testosterone in responders, those with restored oestrus cyclicity, and differed from both control animals and the manual stimulation group. Thus, EA cannot in all aspects be considered superior to manual stimulation. The effects of low-frequency EA may be mediated by central opioid receptors, while manual stimulation may involve regulation of steroid hormone/peptide receptors.