Introduction: Asthma is a worldwide disabling chronic inflammatory airway disease characterized by an intense eosinophilic inflammatory infiltrate on bronchial mucous membranes. Among the complementary therapeutic approaches to asthma, acupuncture has been widely used.
Objective: Here we used a rat pulmonary hypersensitivity experimental model that mimics human asthma in order to address whether electroacupuncture (EA) treatment could reduce the inflammatory process.
Materials and methods: Experimental animals were divided in four groups: control (C), immobilized (I), sham-acupuncture (SA), and acupuncture (A). All rats were sensitized with heat-solidified hen egg white implant. Using clinical acupuncture points, EA treatment began 2 days after antigen priming and was repeated on alternate days for 2 weeks. Subsequently, animals were challenged by inhalation with aggregated ovalbumin and sacrificed 24 hours later when blood samples, bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), and lungs were collected.
Results: Histopathologic analyses showed that peribronchial and perivascular inflammatory cell infiltrates were significantly lower in group A compared to groups SA and I (shown to be similar to group C). Furthermore, BAL total cell count and percentage of polymorphonuclears (as well as the differential counts of neutrophils and eosinophils) were significantly reduced in group A compared to group I. Corsticosterone plasma levels were similar in all groups.
Conclusions: Taken together these results show that EA efficiently diminishes the bronchial immune-mediated inflammation induced in rats and that this effect is dependent on the choice of specific acupoints.