Japanese researchers show that acupuncture can improve skeletal muscle atrophy

April 23, 2012

A team of Japanese researchers will reveal study results Monday at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting that show how acupuncture therapy mitigates skeletal muscle loss and holds promise for those seeking improved mobility through muscle rejuvenation.

"It is my hope that this study will demonstrate acupuncture's feasibility with regard to improving health among the elderly and medical patients. Our findings could identify acupuncture as the primary nonpharmacological treatment to prevent skeletal muscle atrophy in the future," says Akiko Onda, an acupuncturist and graduate student at the Waseda University School of Sport Sciences, who has been conducting a series of studies on skeletal muscle atrophy for the past four years. Her presentation will be on Monday, April 23, at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting, which is part of EB2012.

Loss of skeletal muscle mass has a profound effect on the ability of the elderly and the sick to engage in physical activity. Because skeletal muscle has high plasticity, interventions such as , improved nutrition and are often recommended to prevent atrophy. Unfortunately, these can be challenging goals for those who are already frail or who have severe medical conditions. Onda insists an alternative nonpharmacological intervention is urgently required, and so she and her collaborators in two labs at Waseda University decided to explore how acupuncture affects skeletal muscle at the molecular level.

"The main focus of this study is changes in the mRNA of muscle-specific atrophic genes such as atrogin-1," Onda says. "Muscle mass and structure are determined by the balance between and synthesis."

The team showed that decreases in muscle mass in mice and in the level of the E3 ubiquitin ligase atrogin-1 can be significantly reversed by acupuncture.

In spite of the World Health Organization's endorsement of acupuncture and the widespread use of acupuncture as a treatment for various diseases, acupuncture is still regarded by many as obscure and suspicious, and its underlying molecular mechanisms are almost completely unknown.

"Our results have uncovered one molecular mechanism responsible for the efficacy of acupuncture treatment and clarified its usefulness in preventing skeletal muscle atrophy in mice," Onda said. "We hope to introduce acupuncture as a new strategy for preventing skeletal muscle atrophy in the future. Further investigations into its molecular mechanisms will help to decrease the medical community's suspicion of acupuncture and provide us with a better understanding of how acupuncture treatment prevents skeletal muscle atrophy."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Large variety of microbial communities found to live along female reproductive tract

October 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A large team of researchers from China (and one each from Norway and Denmark) has found that the female reproductive tract is host to a far richer microbial community than has been thought. In their paper ...

Study of what makes cells resistant to radiation could improve cancer treatments

October 18, 2017
A Johns Hopkins University biologist is part of a research team that has demonstrated a way to size up a cell's resistance to radiation, a step that could eventually help improve cancer treatments.

A new compound targets energy generation, thereby killing metastatic cells

October 17, 2017
Cancer can most often be successfully treated when confined to one organ. But a greater challenge lies in treating cancer that has metastasized, or spread, from the primary tumor throughout the patient's body. Although immunotherapy ...

New approach helps rodents with spinal cord injury breathe on their own

October 17, 2017
One of the most severe consequences of spinal cord injury in the neck is losing the ability to control the diaphragm and breathe on one's own. Now, investigators show for the first time in laboratory models that two different ...

Pair of discoveries illuminate new paths to flu and anthrax treatments

October 17, 2017
Two recent studies led by biologists at the University of California San Diego have set the research groundwork for new avenues to treat influenza and anthrax poisoning.

New method to measure how drugs interact

October 17, 2017
Cancer, HIV and tuberculosis are among the many serious diseases that are frequently treated with combinations of three or more drugs, over months or even years. Developing the most effective therapies for such diseases requires ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.