“Sepsis is the major cause of death in the hospital. But, in many cases, patients do not die because of the infection. They die because of the inflammatory disorder they develop after the infection. So we hoped to study how to control the inflammatory disorder,” explained Luis Ulloa, an immunologist at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
The stimulation of one of the body’s major nerves – the vagus nerve – triggers processes in the body that reduce inflammation. The researchers set out to see whether a form of acupuncture that sends a small electric current through that and other nerves could reduce inflammation and organ injury in septic mice.
When the electro-acupuncture was applied to mice with sepsis, molecules called cytokines that help limit inflammation were stimulated as predicted and half of those mice survived for at least a week. There was zero survival among mice that did not receive acupuncture.
The researchers dug even deeper – to find the specific anatomical changes that occurred when electro-acupuncture was performed with functioning adrenal glands.