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Nuclear Factor kB and Inhibitor of kB: Acupuncture Protection Against Acute Focal Cerebral Ischemia in Rodents

Context: Acute, focal, cerebral ischemic stroke is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Acupuncture is an emerging alternative therapy for treatment of acute brain ischemia. Nevertheless, the precise mechanism underlying the neuroprotective effects of acupuncture has not been elucidated. Nuclear factor kB (NF-kB) and nuclear factor of k light polypeptide gene enhancer in B cell inhibitor alpha (IkB-a) are involved in cerebral inflammation. However, the involvement of NF-kB and IkB-a in the protective effects of acupuncture on ischemic tolerance remains unknown. Objective: The study evaluated the hypothesis that acupuncture can exert a neuroprotective action in a rat model of middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO). Design: The rats were randomly divided into a normal group (N), a sham model group (SM), an MCAO model group (M), a sham acupuncture group (SA), and an acupuncture group (A). Setting: All of processes of this study were conducted at Hubei University of Chinese Medicine (Hubei Shang, China). Animals: The animals were 100 Sprague–Dawley rats, aged 3 mo. Intervention: Craniotomy and electrocoagulation of the middle cerebral artery were conducted to generate acute, focal, cerebral ischemic models in 3 groups, excluding the N and SM groups. The SM group received a surgical fenestration similar to the M group, but the procedure did not include the coagulation of the exposed artery. In the A group, acupuncture was administered at the acupoints Baihui (GV-20) and Renzhong (GV-26). In the SA group, sham acupuncture was performed at a depth of 5 mm at a position close to the left side of the GV-20 and GV-26 points. The N, M, and SM groups received neither the acupuncture nor the sham acupuncture treatment. Outcome Measures: The study (1) evaluated neurological function using the modified neurological severity score; (2) examined the ultrastructure; (3) assessed the infarct volume; (4) determined levels of serum inflammatory cytokines; and (5) measured protein expression in the hippocampus 24 h after MCAO using a Western blot analysis. Results: Acupuncture significantly decreased infarct size and improved neurological function. The levels of the target protein NF-kB and of serum inflammatory cytokines significantly decreased in group A compared with those in groups M and SM. The IkB-a level was generally higher in group A than in groups M and SM. Conclusions: Acupuncture can significantly enhance the expression of IkB-a, which is the inhibitory protein of NF-kB, and it can inhibit the expression of various inflammatory cytokines induced by NF-kB, thereby alleviating acute, focal, cerebral ischemic injury.

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