Moxibustion at Zusanli and Shenshu reduces inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis

Objective: To test the hypothesis that moxibustion may inhibit rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovial inflammation by regulating the expression of macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF)/glucocorticoids (GCs).

Methods: Fifty male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into five groups (n = 10 each): blank Control (CON) group, rheumatoid arthritis Model (RA) group, Moxibustion (MOX) group, MIF inhibitor (S,R)-3-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-4,5-dihydro-5-isoxazole acetic acid methyl ester (ISO-1) group, and Moxibustion + MIF inhibitor ISO-1 (MOX + ISO-1) group. Rats in the ISO-1 group and ISO-1 + MOX group were intraperitoneally injected with the inhibitor ISO-1.

The rats in the rheumatoid arthritis group, ISO-1 group, MOX group, and ISO-1 + MOX group were injected with Freund’s complete adjuvant (FCA) in the right hind footpad to establish an experimental rheumatoid arthritis rat model. In the MOX group and MOX + ISO-1 group, rats were treated with Moxa.

The thickness of the footpads of the rats in each group was measured at three-time points before, after modeling and after moxibustion treatment. The contents of serum MIF, corticosterone (CORT), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin-1β (IL-1β) were detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay; and the contents of synovial MIF were detected by Western blot. Hematoxylin-eosin (HE) staining method was used to observe the pathological changes of synovial tissue under a section light microscope, and pathological scoring was performed according to the grading standard of the degree of synovial tissue disease.

Results: Moxibustion was found to reduce the level of MIF and alleviate inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis rats in this study. In addition, after inhibiting the expression of MIF, the level of CORT increased, and the level of TNF-α decreased. Treating rheumatoid arthritis rats with inhibited MIF by moxibustion, the level of CORT was almost unchanged, but the level of TNF-α further decreased. The correlation analysis data suggested that MIF was positively related to the expression of TNF-α and negatively correlated with the expression of CORT.

Conclusion: Reducing MIF to increase CORT and decrease TNF-α by moxibustion treatment in rheumatoid arthritis. MIF may be a factor for moxibustion to regulate the expression of CORT, but the expression of TNF-α is due to the incomplete regulation of the MIF. This study added to the body of evidence pointing to moxibustion’s anti-inflammatory mechanism in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.


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About Attilio

Doctor of Chinese medicine, acupuncture expert and author of My Fertility Guide and My Pregnancy Guide.

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