Medical Research

Inflammation IL-6 , Electroacupuncture and HRV

Kristen Sparrow • June 03, 2020

This study, though older, is important because it connects the dots between vagal activity,  pro-inflammatory cytokines (Il-6), and gastric emptying.  It would be quite expensive to do this study in a human controlled trial.  This is where these animal models are so useful to expand our thinking on how acupuncture works. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2013 Oct;25(10):807-e635. doi: 10.1111/nmo.12183. Epub 2013 Jul 12.

Electroacupuncture improves burn-induced impairment in gastric motility mediated via the vagal mechanism in rats.

Song J1, Yin J, Sallam HS, Bai T, Chen Y, Chen JD.



Delayed gastric emptying (GE) is common in patients with severe burns. This study was designed to investigate effects and mechanisms of electroacupuncture (EA) on gastric motility in rats with burns.


Male rats (intact and vagotomized) were implanted with gastric electrodes, chest and abdominal wall electrodes for investigating the effects of EA at ST-36 (stomach-36 or Zusanli) on GE, gastric slow waves, autonomic functions, and plasma interleukin 6 (IL-6) 6 and 24 h post severe burns. IL-6) 6 and 24 h post severe burns.
(i) Burn delayed GE (P < 0.001). Electroacupuncture improved GE 6 and 24 h post burn (P < 0.001). Vagotomy blocked the EA
effect on GE. (ii) Electroacupuncture improved burn-induced gastric dysrhythmia. The percentage of normal slow waves was
increased with EA 6 and 24 h post burn (P = 0.02). (iii) Electroacupuncture increased vagal activity assessed by the
spectral analysis of heart rate variability (HRV). The high-frequency component reflecting vagal component was increased
with EA 6 (P = 0.004) and 24 h post burn (P = 0.03, vs sham-EA). (iv) Electroacupuncture attenuated burn-induced increase
in plasma IL-6 at both 6 (P = 0.03) and 24 h post burn (P = 0.003).
Electroacupuncture at ST-36 improves gastric dysrhythmia and accelerates GE in rats with burns. The improvement seems to be
mediated via the vagal pathway involving the inflammatory cytokine IL-6.

Key cytokine IL-6.