Neuroprotective effect of electroacupuncture and upregulation of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α during acute ischaemic stroke in rats

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Abstract

Background

Acupuncture is a traditional method that has been widely used in various fields of medicine with therapeutic effect. However, evidence of effectiveness to support the application of electroacupuncture (EA) during the process of ischaemia is scarce.

Objectives

To investigate dynamic changes in hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1α expression as well as its association with neurological status in rats subjected to acute ischaemic stroke and EA intervention.

Methods

Forty adult male rats were randomly divided into three groups that received sham surgery (Control group, n=10) or underwent middle cerebral artery occlusion and EA (MCAO+EA group, n=15) or minimal acupuncture as a control treatment (MCAO+MA group, n=15). The rats in the MCAO+EA and MCAO+MA groups received EA or acupuncture without any electrical current, respectively, during 90 min of ischaemia. Rats in the Control group received the same surgical procedure but without MCAO. EA involved electrical stimulation of needles inserted into the quadriceps at 50 Hz frequency and 3 mA current intensity. Neurological status was evaluated on postoperative day 1, and cerebral infarction volume (IV) and HIF-1α expression 24 hours later.

Results

Neurological scores were improved and cerebral IV was decreased in the MCAO+EA group compared to the MCAO+MA group (both p<0.05). Moreover, HIF-1α expression was higher in the MCAO+EA group versus the MCAO+MA group (p<0.05).

Conclusions

EA enhanced recovery of neurological function, decreased cerebral IV and increased HIF-1α expression in ischaemic rats. Further research is needed to determine whether EA is effective for stroke treatment through the stimulation of muscle contraction.

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