A new study published in the journal Neural Regeneration Research reveals more of the physiological mechanisms through which acupuncture treats depression. The study found that acupuncture alleviates depression by normalizing gene expression. The researchers state that, “depression causes ‘abnormal gene expression’ in ‘a large number of genes’ and add that this deleteriously affects ‘multiple brain functions’ and affects nerve cells. Depression causes deleterious biochemical changes and these changes cause more depression. The researchers note, this ‘vicious circle makes it difficult to cure conditions such as depression’.”
The fact that acupuncture has broad and profound effects on such foundational aspects of the body is what makes it a powerful healing system. The researchers found that, “A total of 21 genes imbalanced by depression were normalized by the application of electroacupuncture. Depression abnormally upregulates some genes and downregulates other genes. Electroacupuncture homeostatically balanced both up and downregulation of gene expression to normal levels.”
The importance of getting these genes back to functioning at their proper levels is difficult to overstate. Explaining the functions of these genes, the researchers said, “ Electroacupuncture successfully downregulated genes involved in oxidative stress and inflammation that had been upregulated by depression. This normalization benefits the brain by maintaining tissue structure and restoring cell function. The researchers note that this effect provides evidence to the observed clinical effect of electroacupuncture on depression. Overall, electroacupuncture demonstrated the ability to normalize gene levels involved in transcription/translation, neurotransmission and signal transduction, inflammation relating to the immune system, metabolism, enzymatic reactions and protein biosynthesis.”
This is an exciting time to be involved in the field of acupuncture. As more and more sophisticated research methods are being applied to studying this ancient art, our understanding of the mechanisms behind its remarkable effects is getting better and better. This research may in time lead to new treatment methods and a better integration of acupuncture and Western medicine. In the meantime, though, millions of people around the world are experiencing the benefits this remarkable healing system has to offer.