Introduction: The effects of acupuncture treatment in patients suffering from burnout may imply an epigenetic control mediated by DNA methylation changes. In this observational study, a genome-wide characterization of epigenetic changes in blood DNA, before and after acupuncture treatment, was performed in a cohort of 11 patients suffering from burnout.
Methods: Burnout was assessed using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) and DNA was extracted from blood samples and analyzed by Illumina EPIC BeadChip.
Results: Before acupuncture, all patients suffered of emotional exhaustion (EE) (MBI-EE score, 44±6), 81% suffered of depersonalization (DP) (MBI-DP score, 16±6), and 72% of low feelings of personal accomplishment (PA) (MBI-PA score, 29±9). After acupuncture, all MBI dimensions improved significantly (EE, 16±11 [p=1.5*10-4]; DP, 4±5 [p=5.3*10-4]; and PA, 40±6 [p=4.1*10-3]). For each patient, both methylomes obtained before and after acupuncture co-clustered in the multidimensional scaling plot, indicating a high level of similarity. Genes corresponding to the 10 most differentially methylated CpGs showed enrichment in the brain dopaminergic signalling, steroid synthesis and in the insulin sensitivity pathways.
Conclusion: Acupuncture treatment was found to be highly effective on all burnout dimensions and the epigenetic targets identified were involved in some major disturbances of this syndrome.