Thursday, May 3, 2012

Japan - Japanese Study: Acupuncture May Prevent Muscle Loss In Elderly And Patients

A team of Japanese researchers have found that acupuncture therapy may benefit the elderly and patients who suffer from loss of skeletal muscle mass.

A team of researchers from Japan have found that acupuncture therapy may benefit the elderly and patients who suffer from poor mobility due to loss of skeletal muscle mass, a condition known as skeletal muscle atrophy.

Muscle atrophy is common in the elderly and patients who go through extended periods of inactivity, such as when a limb is put in a cast or being bed-ridden due to a prolonged illness. The condition can also be caused by many diseases such as cancer and liver failure.

Skeletal muscle loss prevents sufferers from performing certain tasks and increases the risk of accidents while engaging in daily activities such as walking.

Although interventions such as exercise and an improved diet are recommended, these are challenging to maintain as patients are often frail and have severe medical conditions.

This motivated Akiko Onda, a graduate student from Waseda University who has been studying skeletal muscle atrophy for the last four years, and her team to turn to acupuncture.

In their study, which was presented last week at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego, USA, the team found that acupuncture can reverse muscle mass loss in mice. Their findings also suggest a molecular mechanism for this effect.

“The main focus of this study is changes in the mRNA expression levels of muscle-specific atrophic genes such as atrogin-1,” said Onda.

They found that mRNA expression level of the E3 ubiquitin ligase atrogin-1 is lowered when muscle mass is loss, and this decrease is significantly reversed by acupuncture.

Although acupuncture has been endorsed by the World Health Organization and is used in treating various diseases, it is still not widely accepted. Part of the reason is that many are skeptical about whether acupuncture really works, as the underlying molecular mechanisms of this traditional Chinese treatment are still largely unknown.

Onda hopes that her team’s findings will help pave the way for acupuncture to be recognized as an efficacious treatment for muscle atrophy.

“Further investigations into its molecular mechanisms will help to decrease the medical community’s suspicion of acupuncture and provide us with a better understanding of how acupuncture treatment prevents skeletal muscle atrophy,” said Onda.

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