Posted in Blog Archive

Posted by abeodbart May 31, 2010 at 4:40 pm

“Scientists have taken another important step toward understanding just how sticking needles into the body can ease pain.

In a paper published online May 30 in Nature Neuroscience, a team at the University of Rochester Medical Center identifies the molecule adenosine as a central player in parlaying some of the effects of acupuncture in the body. Building on that knowledge, scientists were able to triple the beneficial effects of acupuncture in mice by adding a medication approved to treat leukemia in people.

The research focuses on adenosine, a natural compound known for its role in regulating sleep, for its effects on the heart, and for its anti-inflammatory properties. But adenosine also acts as a natural painkiller, becoming active in the skin after an injury to inhibit nerve signals and ease pain in a way similar to lidocaine.

In the current study, scientists found that the chemical is also very active in deeper tissues affected by acupuncture. The Rochester researchers looked at the effects of acupuncture on the peripheral nervous system – the nerves in our body that aren’t part of the brain and spinal cord. The research complements a rich, established body of work showing that in the central nervous system, acupuncture creates signals that cause the brain to churn out natural pain-killing endorphins.”

Read more at Physorg

May 31, 2010 at 4:56 pm
Mike says:

It’s probably worth pointing out that this experiment isn’t evidence that acupuncture works in the way acupuncturists say it does.

For a start it’s in mice. That’s one you should always look out for, especially when a story’s in the Mail.

Previous studies have shown that sham acupuncture (such as retracting needles that don’t penetrate the skin) works just as well as real acupuncture. They’ve also shown that it doesn’t matter whether the needle penetrates a meridian point or not, so it’s nothing to do with Qi, meridian channels, blocking the vital force or anything like that. The release of adenosine can also be triggered using other stimuli, causing the same pain relief.

You should also weigh the pain relief it can provide against the risk of infection from the needle.

May 31, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Oh for heavens sake, this second-rate bit of research has already been dissected by Ed Yong, here

Nature Neuroscience should be ashamed of itself

This post has served one useful function though. I’d never come across Despite its sciencey sounding name and appearance, it seems to be devoted largely devoted to promoting woo,

May 31, 2010 at 6:03 pm
Elephant's Child says:

Doesn’t this mean, as I have always suspected that acupuncture is just a variation on that old playground joke;
“I have a cure for headaches.”
When they ask what it is, you stamp on their foot. :)

May 31, 2010 at 10:23 pm
Danny says:

Bahaha. “I shall have words with them later”

May 31, 2010 at 10:56 pm
unmevsworld says:

David, thanks for the link. And here’s a quote from the end of that link:

The paper notes that the authors have no competing financial interests that might have affected their work. However, it is worth noting that one of the co-authors, Jurgen Schnermann, is married to one Josephine Briggs. Briggs is the director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

June 2, 2010 at 8:25 am
Mick Vagg says:

There is a heap of work by researchers doing actual science regarding how pain and other nervous information is processed by the deep soft tissues such as muscles, ligaments and bones. This type of acupuncture ‘research’ is merely replicating what we already know but adding a layer of mysticism and idealism which is completely unnecessary to explain the known facts. For the record, proponents claim that it works by ‘directing’ the flow of ‘chi energy’ which can mysteriously get ‘blocked’ or ‘imbalanced’. This study is like discovering that trains can be used to move people from one location to another, and claiming it is evidence of teleportation !

June 2, 2010 at 11:47 pm
Josh Wolrich says:

Here’s another link which sums it all up quite well!


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