The Neuroimmune Response
Dr Donald E Kendell’s peer reviewed publication in 2002 and updated theory and research establishes the neuroimmune response theory inclusive to neural, vascular, immunological and endocrine systems. A local defensive inflammatory response (bradykin release) elicited by the insertion of an acupuncture needle provokes afferent nociceptive neuron distribution to the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. This triggers the gamma loop efferents of the ventral horn to stimulate neurons to cross the spine and send transmissions to the sensory cortex (which are perceived by the person being needled as needle sensation) and the brain stem. Nociceptive and proprioceptive signals stimulate neurons which activate somatic and autonomic motor nerves to the periphery, muscle and internal organ.These signals inhibit pain, relieve muscle contractions, normalize vascular tone, and restore blood flow. Inhibition of autonomic motor fibers also normalizes organ activity; internal organs also have afferent nociceptive neurons.
Ben Kavoussi and B Evan Ross expanded this theory confirming the brain and immune system form a bidirectional network via the neurohumoral pathways expanding on the idea that when unmyelinated C fibers are stimulated, pro- inflammatory tachykinins which induce vasodilation, and increased vascular permeability ensue. This inflammatory event is transmitted along the afferent vagus nerve and into the brain stem which in turn provoke a transmission pathway of cytokines, causing a direct nerve to immune cell interaction or indirectly via the adrenal neuroendocrine axis. This ultimately leads to a decrease in the pro inflammatory response and an increase in the anti inflammatory cytokines as well as the release of ACTH via the dorsal vagal complex. Both activate the humoral anti inflammatory pathway.
The interesting research that connects this biomedicine theory with traditional teachings is the Vagus nerve and the Spleen. The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) governs the down regulation of pro inflammatory cytokines and containment of the somatic inflammatory response. Efferent activity in the vagus nerve leads to acetylcholine (ACh) response which inhibits pro inflammatory response only. Studies show that direct electrical stimulation of the efferent vagal nerve blocks TNF synthesis. The Spleen/Stomach Meridians of traditional teaching nearly correlate with the known and hypothetical pathway of the vagal nerve. The vagal nerve is one of the longest cranial nerves and is crucial to the PNS; the Spleen and Stomach are essential to the physiology and pathology in traditional teachings.
*Kavoussi, B. Ross B.E. The Neuroimmune Basis of Anti-inflammatory Acupuncture. Integrated Cancer Therapies 6(3): 251-257. do: 10.1177/1534735407305892
*Carol Mattson Porth, Essentials of Pathophysiology: Concepts of Altered HealthStates Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2007
*Helene M. Langevin and Jason Yandow. Relationship of Acupuncture and Meridians to Connective Tissue Planes.The Anatomical Record Review (New Anat) 269:257-265, 2002.
*Kendall, Dr. D.E. The Dao of Chinese medicine: Understanding an Ancient Healing Art.1 ed. USA: Oxford University Press. 2002
*Shang, Dr. C. Basic Acupuncture Research has met the Gold Standard of Science. Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. Boston 2009
For more information, articles, other websites that promote science based literature, studies, and educational pieces on Acupuncture visit our Articles and Interest page