Thoracic Jia-Ji electro-acupuncture mitigates low skeletal muscle atrophy and improves motor function recovery following thoracic spinal cord injury in rats

Am J Transl Res. 2022 Nov 15;14(11):8103-8116. eCollection 2022.


Objectives: The goal of this study was to determine whether electro-acupuncture (EA) stimulation might protect the motor endplate, minimize muscle atrophy in the hind limbs, and enhance functional recovery of rats with spinal cord injury (SCI).

Methods: Sprague-Dawley adult female rats (n = 30) were randomly assigned into Sham, SCI, and EA + SCI groups (n = 10 each). Rats in the Sham and SCI groups were bound in prone position only for 30 min, and rats in the EA + SCI group were treated with electro-acupuncture. The EA was conducted from the first day after surgery, lasted for 30 mins, once every day for 28 consecutive days.

Results: EA significantly prevented motor endplate degeneration, improved electrophysiological function, and ameliorated hindlimb muscle atrophy after SCI. Meanwhile, EA upregulated Tuj-1 expression, downregulated GFAP expression, and reduced glial scar formation. Additionally, after 4 weeks of EA treatment, the serum of SCI rats exhibited a reduced inflammatory response.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that EA can preserve the motor endplate and reduce muscular atrophy. In addition, EA has been shown to improve the function of upper and lower neurons, reduce glial scar formation, suppress systemic inflammation, and improve axon regeneration.

Keywords: Electro-acupuncture; motor endplate; motor function recovery; muscle atrophy; spinal cord injury.