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30/10/2008 - National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant approved for new Australian Acupuncture Study.

News release:

There is evidence to suggest that Acupuncture can modulate both non-specific and specific immunity. Published literature suggests that this modulation is most prominent in subjects with chronic inflammatory diseases such as allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis is a significant burden to the Australian community in quality of life and wellbeing, impaired performance, loss of productivity and health care costs. The total number of Australians who have allergic rhinitis is estimated to be in the order of 3.2 million and the prevalence of the disease is increasing. While there is evidence that acupuncture treatment is clinically beneficial for patients with allergic rhinitis, little is currently understood about the mechanisms of acupuncture in this or other chronic inflammatory diseases which involve changes in the mucosal immune response.

John McDonald (School of Medicine, Griffith Health), Prof Allan Cripps (Pro-Vice Chancellor, Health, Griffith University), A/Prof Pete Smith (Bond University), A/Prof Caroline Smith (University of Adelaide), A/Prof Brenda Golianu (Stanford University) and Prof Charlie Xue (RMIT University) are all participating in this promising new research.

The grant of approximately $370,000 is for the years 2009 to 2011. This project has essentially become an RCT on the clinical efficacy of Acupuncture for allergic rhinitis in which there are many details of immune modulation being studied at the same time.

The overall objective of this research is to investigate the effects of acupuncture on the mucosal immune response in the upper respiratory tract. To achieve this objective we have developed a research plan around 3 specific aims. In patients with allergic rhinitis we will:

(i) Determine if acupuncture modifies the Th1/Th2 balance at the mucosal level of the upper respiratory tract,

(ii) Determine if acupuncture modifies non-specific immunity at the mucosal level of the upper respiratory tract, and

(iii) Examine potential mechanisms by which acupuncture may modify mucosal immune responses.

Project Outcomes: The growing use of unproven complementary and alternative therapies highlights a need for scientifically rigorous research to identify those that are based on sound biological mechanisms and that are safe and effective. This research will identify essential new information that provides an understanding of how acupuncture influences mucosal immune response specifically in the upper respiratory tract.

This information may also have relevance to understanding modulation of mucosal immune response in the lower respiratory tract and the gut. New information on the mechanism of acupuncture in modifying mucosal immunity would be likely to contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms of acupuncture in a broader sense. Also by studying changes in particular cytokines, neurotrophins and neuropeptides simultaneously, the complex interactions between these three groups of inflammatory mediators may be further elucidated, in turn opening up new avenues for research into potential therapeutic interventions.