Background: Bee venom acupuncture (BVA), a novel type of acupuncture therapy in which purified bee venom is injected into the specific acupuncture point on the diseased part of the body, is used primarily for relieving pain and other musculoskeletal symptoms. In the present study, therapeutic potential of BVA to improve atopic dermatitis, a representative allergic dysfunction, was evaluated in the mouse model of trimellitic anhydride (TMA)-induced skin impairment.
Methods: Mice were treated with 5% TMA on the dorsal flank for sensitization and subsequently treated with 2% TMA on the dorsum of both ears for an additional 12 days after a 3-day interval. From the 7(th) day of 2% TMA treatment, bilateral subcutaneous injection of BV (BV, 0.3 mg/kg) was performed daily at BL40 acupuncture points (located behind the knee) 1 h before 2% TMA treatment for 5 days.
Results: BVA treatment markedly inhibited the expression levels of both T helper cell type 1 (Th1) and Th2 cytokines in ear skin and lymph nodes of TMA-treated mice. Clinical features of AD-like symptoms such as ear skin symptom severity and thickness, inflammation, and lymph node weight were significantly alleviated by BV treatment. BV treatment also inhibited the proliferation and infiltration of T cells, the production of Th1 and Th2 cytokines, and the synthesis of interleukin (IL)-4 and immunoglobulin E (IgE)-typical allergic Th2 responses in blood. The inhibitory effect of BVA was more pronounced at BL40 acupoint than non-acupuncture point located at the base of the tail.
Conclusions: These results indicate that BV injection at specific acupuncture points effectively alleviates AD-like skin lesions by inhibiting inflammatory and allergic responses in a TMA-induced contact hypersensitivity mouse model.