Acupuncturist and graduate student, Akiko Onda, adds, “It is my hope that this study will demonstrate acupuncture's feasibility with regard to improving health among the elderly and medical patients. Our findings could identify acupuncture as the primary nonpharmacological treatment to prevent skeletal muscle atrophy in the future.”
Skeletal muscle mass loss has a detrimental effect on the ability of the elderly and the sick to engage in physical activity. Since skeletal muscle has high plasticity, interventions such as exercise training, improved nutrition and mechanical stimulation are often recommended to prevent atrophy. For those who are already frail or have severe medical conditions, meeting these goals can be extremely challenging. Onda insists that an alternative nonpharmacological intervention is of the utmost importance and she and her fellow researchers have decided to explore how acupuncture affects skeletal muscle at the molecular level.
Onda claims, "The main focus of this study is changes in the mRNA expression levels of muscle-specific atrophic genes such as atrogin-1. Muscle mass and structure are determined by the balance between protein degradation and synthesis."
Despite the World Health Organization’s endorsement of acupuncture and the widespread use of acupuncture as a treatment for various conditions, acupuncture is still regarded by many as obscure and questionable, and its underlying molecular mechanisms are almost completely unknown.
Onda concludes, “Our results have uncovered one molecular mechanism responsible for the efficacy of acupuncture treatment and clarified its usefulness in preventing skeletal muscle atrophy in mice. We hope to introduce acupuncture as a new strategy for preventing skeletal muscle atrophy in the future. 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."