Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Electro-acupuncture promotes survival, differentiation of the bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells as well as functional recovery in the spinal cord-transected rats

Ying Ding1, Qing Yan1, Jing-Wen Ruan4, Yan-Qing Zhang1, Wen-Jie Li1, Yu-Jiao Zhang1, Yan Li1, Hongxin Dong5 and Yuan-Shan Zeng123*

Author affiliations

1 Division of Neuroscience, Department of Histology and Embryology, 74# Zhongshan 2nd Road, Guangzhou, PR China

2 Center for Stem Cell Biology and Tissue Engineering, 74# Zhongshan 2nd Road, Guangzhou, PR China

3 Institute of Spinal Cord Injury, Zhongshan School of Medicine, Sun Yat-sen University, 74# Zhongshan 2nd Road, Guangzhou, PR China

4 Department of Acupuncture of the first Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, PR China

5 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, 303 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago Illinois 60611-3008, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2009, 10:35  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-10-35

Published: 20 April 2009



Bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are one of the potential tools for treatment of the spinal cord injury; however, the survival and differentiation of MSCs in an injured spinal cord still need to be improved. In the present study, we investigated whether Governor Vessel electro-acupuncture (EA) could efficiently promote bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) survival and differentiation, axonal regeneration and finally, functional recovery in the transected spinal cord.


The spinal cords of adult Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats were completely transected at T10, five experimental groups were performed: 1. sham operated control (Sham-control); 2. operated control (Op-control); 3. electro-acupuncture treatment (EA); 4. MSCs transplantation (MSCs); and 5. MSCs transplantation combined with electro-acupuncture (MSCs+EA). After 2-8 weeks of MSCs transplantation plus EA treatment, we found that the neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), cAMP level, the differentiation of MSCs, the 5-HT positive and CGRP positive nerve fibers in the lesion site and nearby tissue of injured spinal cord were significantly increased in the MSCs+EA group as compared to the group of the MSCs transplantation or the EA treated alone. Furthermore, behavioral test and spinal cord evoked potentials detection demonstrated a significantly functional recovery in the MSCs +EA group.


These results suggest that EA treatment may promote grafted MSCs survival and differentiation; MSCs transplantation combined with EA treatment could promote axonal regeneration and partial locomotor functional recovery in the transected spinal cord in rats and indicate a promising avenue of treatment of spinal cord injury.