Can Acupuncture Curb Killer Immune Reactions notes


Can Acupuncture Curb Killer Immune Reactions?

Scientific American MIND May/June 2014 By Gary Stix

p 24 f

on line:


Luis Ulloa, Kevin Tracy,


ST36 Zusanli, acupuncture, sepsis, arthritis, neuroimmune, bioelectronics, electroceuticals, dopamine, Salvia miltiorrhiza



The ST36 Zusanli acupuncture point is located just below the knee joint. This spot in mice - and it is hoped perhaps in humans – may be a critical entryway to gaining control over the often fatal inflammatory reactions that accompany systemic infections, sepsis.


No current drugs have FDA approval for counteraction the runaway immune response.


Researchers at Rutgers University New Jersey Medical School reported on line in Nature Medicine (Feb 23)  that stimulating ST36 Zusanli with an electric current passed through an acupuncture needle activated two nerve tracts in  mice that led to the production of a biochemical that quieted a sepsis like inflammatory reaction induced in mice. [Scientific American MIND is part of Nature publishing group.]


The finding …raises the possibility that knowledge derived from alternative medicine

may provide a means of discovering new nerve pathways that can regulate a variety of immune disorders, from rheumatoid arthritis to Crohn’s disease. If future studies achieve similar results, acupuncture might be integrated into the nascent field of bioelectronics medicine-also called electroceuticals.    


Luis Ulloa has spent more than 10 years researching how nerve signals control immune function. Following the suggestion of a Mexican colleague, he realized it might be worth testing whether acupuncture could help discover some of these …. neuroimmune pathways.









Once ST36 Zusanli was shown to be effective in treating sepsis in mice, the nerve and organ pathways were traced. The signal was found to eventually reach the adrenal glands, which produced the key anti-inflammatory agent, dopamine.


The adrenal glands in many human sepsis patients function poorly, which makes them unsuitable candidates for acupuncture therapy.


Hundreds of these neuroimmune circuits have not been mapped, and some of them may map to acupuncture points, says Kevin Tracy of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research on Long Island, who is one of the pioneers of bioelectronic medicine.


ulloa had no intention of trying to determine whether flows of vital energy, qi, were making their way through “meridians.”


Researchers found no anti-inflammatory effect when a toothpick was used to stimulate  ST36 Zusanli rather than an electrified steel acupuncture needle.


Ulloa notes that it is no coincidence that 360 of the 361 acupuncture points described in humans are located in the proximity of a major nerve.


A few days after the acupuncture paper appeared in Nature Medicine, a study published in Science Translational Medicine documented that a component of the herb Salvia miltiorrhiza, from Chinese medicine, also has potent anti-inflammatory properties.