Brain and Body

Scientists Create First Porous Acupuncture Needles to Enhance Therapeutic Properties

October 17, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Photo credit: Boemski/Flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

Applying nanotechnology to acupuncture may help treat alcohol and cocaine addictions.

In a world first, scientists from the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea have coupled nanotechnology with acupuncture needles, creating porous acupuncture needles (PANs).

The research team, from the Department of Energy Systems Engineering and led by Professor Su-Il In, developed PANs with tiny pores, ranging in sizes from nanometers, which measure in at one billionth of a meter, to micrometers, which are one millionth of a meter.

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PANs are formed via a nano-electrochemical method called anodization, which converts an object’s metal surface into a durable, corrosion-resistant finish. According to the researchers, PANs are expected to be just as effective as conventional large and long needles at minimizing an individual’s sense of pain during acupuncture treatment, but PANs expand the surface area of the needle 20 times greater than conventional ones.

In collaboration with the Addiction Control Research Center at Daegu Haany University, the team conducted electrophysiological experiments with rats, showing that PANs successfully transferred signals from the animals’ spinal dorsal horn, which is composed of sensory neurons, by in vivo stimulation.

Impressively, through animal experiments, the team also demonstrated that PANs are more efficient than conventional acupuncture needles in treating alcohol and cocaine addiction.

"In western medicine, nanotechnology is widely used from diagnosis to treatment; but in eastern medicine, particularly in acupuncture therapy, it is rare to utilize nano science,” Director Jae-ha Yang from Daegu Haany University said in a press statement. “The findings of this study are expected to open new directions in the field of eastern medicine where nano science is rarely explored and utilized."

The findings have been published in the well-respected journal Scientific Reports.

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