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Electroacupuncture at LI11 acupoint promotes jejunal motility via the parasympathetic pathway

Background of this study:

Gastrointestinal Motility DisorderGastrointestinal motility disorder consists of multiple clinical symptoms and occurs in numerous diseases, including diarrhoea, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  Gastrointestinal motility disorders occur in many gastrointestinal and other systemic diseases. Current drug therapy is not particularly effective at controlling the symptoms, and people with the disorder require long-term drug therapy. This drug therapy increases patients’ economic burden and is associated with increased risks of possible drug side effects. Acupuncture has been reported to be an effective method of complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of gastrointestinal motility disorders in numerous clinical studies.

Gastrointestinal motility disorder has been demonstrated to be regulated by acupuncture treatment. However, in contrast to other acupoints for regulating gastrointestinal motility, such as ST36 (Zusanli) and ST25 (Tianshu), more evidence from basic research regarding the use of LI11 in acupuncture is needed. LI11 (Quchi) is a useful acupoint on the arm that is often used to treat gastrointestinal diseases. 

The mechanisms underlying the effects of acupuncture stimulation of abdominal and lower limb acupoints on gastrointestinal motility have been thoroughly studied; however, the physiology underlying the effects of acupuncture on the forelimbs to mediate gastrointestinal motility requires further exploration. The aim of this study was to determine whether electroacupuncture at the LI11 (Quchi) acupoint promotes jejunal motility, whether the parasympathetic pathway participates in this effect, and if so, which somatic afferent nerve fibres are involved.

Methods of this study:

Electroacupuncture is a variant of manual acupuncture in which electrical stimulation is applied through needles. Owing to the ease of modulating its stimulation frequency and intensity, electroacupuncture is recognized as a quantifiable treatment and is widely used in clinical and experimental research. For this reason, we chose electroacupuncture as the stimulation method in this study.

Results of this study:

Electroacupuncture at the LI11 acupoint increased the contractile amplitude of jejunal motility in the majority of both rats and mice. However, electroacupuncture at LI11 did not enhance jejunal motility in rats administered atropine, rats that underwent vagotomy, and M2M3 −‍‍/− mice (at all intensities). In wild-type mice, electroacupuncture at LI11 significantly increased jejunal motility at all intensities except 1 mA, and a plateau was reached at intensities greater than 4 mA.

All experimental manipulations were undertaken in accordance with the Principles of Laboratory Animal Care and the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, published by the National Science Council, China.

Conclusion of this study:

Our results suggest that electroacupuncture at the LI11 acupoint promotes jejunal motility primarily by exciting the parasympathetic pathway, and that Aδ-fibres and C-fibres may play important roles in the process.

©  The Author(s). 2017

  • Xuanming Hu,
  • Mengqian Yuan,
  • Yin Yin,
  • Yidan Wang,
  • Yuqin Li,
  • Na Zhang,
  • Xueyi Sun,
  • Zhi Yu
  • Bin Xu

BMC Complementary and Alternative MedicineBMC series – open, inclusive and trusted 201717:329


©  The Author(s). 2017

  • Received: 21 October 2016
  • Accepted: 6 June 2017
  • Published: 21 June 2017