Acupuncture is a form of Eastern medicine that has been practiced for centuries. Despite its long history and worldwide application, the biological mechanisms of acupuncture in relieving pain have been poorly defined. Recent studies in mice, however, demonstrate that acupuncture triggers increases in interstitial adenosine, which reduces the severity of chronic pain through adenosine A1 receptors, suggesting that adenosine-mediated antinociception contributes to the clinical benefits of acupuncture. We asked here whether acupuncture in human subjects is also linked to a local increase in interstitial adenosine concentration. We collected microdialysis samples of interstitial fluid before, during, and after delivering 30 minutes of conventional acupuncture in the Zusanli point in human subjects. The interstitial adenosine concentration increased significantly during acupuncture and remained elevated for 30 minutes after the acupuncture. Acupuncture- mediated adenosine release was not observed if acupuncture was not delivered in the Zusanli point or if the acupuncture needle was inserted, but not rotated. This study strengthens the role of adenosine in acupuncture-mediated antinociception by directly providing such evidence in humans.
Ref: J Pain. 2012 December ; 13(12): 1215–1223. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2012.09.012.