Acupuncture, used for thousands of years in the Far East to treat pain and illness, has many followers but little scientific rigor to explain whether it works or not. Now, an unusual study suggests that acupuncture has a marked effect on the type of brain inflammation seen in Parkinson’s disease — in mice, that is.
Studies of the effects of acupuncture in animals are few and far between. But mice can’t tell whether they are being treated or not — potentially yielding a much better idea of whether the treatment might actually be working or whether any improvement is just a placebo effect.
Parkinson’s is a movement disorder that affects more than 6 million people worldwide. It is associated with low levels of the chemical dopamine in the brain. To investigate the protective effects of acupuncture in the brain, a team led by Sabina Lim at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, South Korea, used a standard mouse model of Parkinson’s disease, in which injections of a chemical known as MPTP kill off brain cells that manufacture dopamine.