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21/08/2007 - Dorsal root ganglion: the target of acupuncture in the treatment of asthma.

Country: China

Institute: Department of Respiratory Medicine, Xiangya Hospital of Central South University, Hunan, China.

Author(s): Feng JT, Hu CP, Li XZ.

Journal: 1: Adv Ther. 2007 May-Jun;24(3):598-602.


Recently, high levels of neurotrophic factors have been found in bronchial asthma; these factors include nerve growth factor, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and leukemia inhibitory factor, among others. Neurotrophic factors are first synthesized in bronchial epithelial cells, immune cells, and other cells in the airway; they are then taken up by the synapse and are finally transported to dorsal root ganglia (C7-T5).

Increased neurotrophic factors in dorsal root ganglia promote the synthesis and release of substance P. As a result, substance P causes a series of reactions such as contraction of airway smooth muscles, secretion of mucous fluids, seepage of capillary vessels, release of mediators of inflammation, and aggravation of airway hyperreactivity. It is interesting to note that the anatomic locations of dorsal root ganglia (C7-T5) are similar to a series of acupuncture points in traditional Chinese medicine. These points are all situated on 2 sides of the midspinal line, and most of them belong to Back-shu acupuncture points. In traditional Chinese medicine, Back-shu points can be used to treat patients with bronchial asthma through acupuncture and moxibustion. Is it a coincidence, or is there a real connection? These points possess similar neurotonia, physical function, and therapeutic effects; the functional area of Back-shu is composed of these points. When these points are pricked with a needle along the lower border of the spinous process, dorsal root ganglia and spinal nerves are stimulated; this can help to regulate the synthesis and release of neurotransmitters.

It is hypothesized that dorsal root ganglia may be the targets of acupuncture in the treatment of asthma; in this process, acupuncture has an inhibitory effect on the uptake of neurotrophic factors, or it inhibits the synthesis and release of substance P in dorsal root ganglia. As a result, airway neurogenic inflammation in asthma is relieved.

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Pubmed ID: 17660170