Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, the most common cause of dementia in elderly persons. Patients with late stages of Alzheimer’s disease suffer from severe memory loss, speech impairment as well as complete physical dependence on caregivers as they are unable to walk or even eat by themselves. The condition is due to the formation of pathological plaques of β-amyloid that lead to progressive death of neural cells. However, the exact reasons for the accumulation of β-amyloid and the subsequent brain damage remain unknown. That is why Alzheimer’s disease is a huge field of interest for the scientists.
Recent studies, aimed to find the place of acupuncture in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, claim that acupuncture could be beneficial for such patients, as it improves the cognitive functions and delays the progression of the condition.
How acupuncture helps
- Acupuncture decreases Aβ levels
Aβ or β- amyloid is a substance that accumulates within certain regions of the brain, particularly the hippocampus, forming plaques that cause brain damage. As hippocampus is associated with short and long-term memory, it is no wonder why patients with Alzheimer suffer from severe memory loss. Experiments conducted at The Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine showed that electroacupuncture decreases the deposits of Aβ and therefore the neural loss associated with it. This statement is almost revolutionary as current therapies aim to slow down the progression of the disease and not to reverse the present damage.
- Acupuncture increases BDNF levels
BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factors) are a group of factors that regulate the signalization within the brain. High levels of BDNF are associated with lower risk of dementia and vice-versa- patients with Alzheimer’s disease tend to have decreased levels of BDNF. In addition BDNF itself is a protective factor against β- amyloid accumulation, which underlines its important role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Acupuncture stimulated the expression of BDNF.
- Acupuncture decreases apoptosis
The programmed cell death, called apoptosis is another phenomena observed in Alzheimer’s disease. It has been found that not only BDNF in general but the ratios between its subpopulations also play role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Researches on transgenic mice models confirm that acupuncture modulates the expression of BDNF subpopulations in a way that the apoptosis is inhibited. Therefore in that way acupuncture exercises a neuroprotective effect.
In conclusion there are enough scientific evidences supporting the positive outcome for patients with Alzheimer’s disease treated by acupuncture. Moreover, changes that were tough to be irreversible were influenced by acupuncture. This raises the hope that soon a definitive treatment of the disease will be discovered.
- HealthCMi Acupuncture Reduces Alzheimer’s Disease Brain Plaques DECEMBER 2016 Link
- Lin, Ruhui, Jixiang Chen, Xiaojie Li, Jingjie Mao, Yunan Wu, Peiyuan Zhuo, Yinzheng Zhang, Weilin Liu, Jia Huang, Jing Tao, and Li-Dian Chen. “Electroacupuncture at the Baihui acupoint alleviates cognitive impairment and exerts neuroprotective effects by modulating the expression and processing of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in APP/PS1 transgenic mice.” Molecular Medicine Reports, 2015. doi:10.3892/mmr.2015.4751. Pg 1611 Link
- Wang, Zhiqun, Peipeng Liang, Zhilian Zhao, Ying Han, Haiqing Song, Jianyang Xu, Jie Lu, and Kuncheng Li. “Acupuncture Modulates Resting State Hippocampal Functional Connectivity in Alzheimer Disease.” PLoS ONE 9, no. 3 (2014). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091160. Pg 3837 Link