Electroacupuncture: a new hope for pain management & healing?

Written by Adam Price-Evans

Researchers have demonstrated that electroacupuncture triggers the release of mesenchymal stem cells in rats and humans for tissue repair and pain relief

A team of researchers led by Maria Grant (Indiana University School of Medicine, IN, USA) have demonstrated that electroacupuncture (EA) promotes tissue repair and relieves injury-induced pain by triggering the release of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in to the bloodstream.

The group studied EA in rats and humans and demonstrated using functional MRIs of the brain that administration at specific immune points leads to enhanced connectivity between the hypothalamus and the amygdala. MSCs were also mobilized from different sources, predominantly the adipose tissue in humans, in to the systemic circulation within two hours.

“The acupuncture stimulus we’re giving these animals has a rapid effect on neuroanatomical pathways that connect the stimulus point in the arm to responsive neurons in the spinal cord and into a region in the brain called the hypothalamus. In turn, the hypothalamus directs outgoing signals to stem cell niches resulting in their release,” stated Fletcher White (Indiana University, IN, USA).

The team also found that EA activated sensory ganglia and sympathetic nervous system centers in order to promote MSC release resulting in enhancements in pain tolerance to injury, levels of collagen linked to tendon repair and anti-inflammatory cytokine production associated with faster healing.

“This is a wonderful strategy to augment reparative mechanisms within the body and is complimentary to both human and veterinary medicine,” concluded Grant.


Salazar TE, Richardson MR, Beli E et al. Electroacupuncture promotes CNS-dependent release of mesenchymal stem cells. Stem Cells. doi: 10.1002/stem.2613 (2017) (Epub ahead of print); http://news.medicine.iu.edu/releases/2017/03/iu-researchers-find-electroacupuncture-releases-stem-cells%20.shtml