Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Electroacupuncture preconditioning reduces cerebral ischemic injury via BDNF and SDF-1α in mice

Ji Hyun Kim1, Kyung Ha Choi1, Young Jung Jang1, Ha Neui Kim1, Sun Sik Bae2, Byung Tae Choi1* and Hwa Kyoung Shin1*

Author affiliations

1 Division of Meridian and Structural Medicine, School of Korean Medicine, Pusan National University, Yangsan, Gyeongnam, 626-870, Republic of Korea

2 Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, Pusan National University, Yangsan, Gyeongnam, 626-870, Republic of Korea

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:22  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-22

Published: 28 January 2013



This study was designed to determine if electroacupuncture (EA) preconditioning improves tissue outcome and functional outcome following experimentally induced cerebral ischemia in mice. In addition, we investigated whether the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and stromal cell derived factor-1α (SDF-1α) and infarct volume were related with improvement in neurological and motor function by interventions in this study.


After treatment with EA at the acupoints ‘Baihui (GV20)’ and ‘Dazhui (GV14)’ for 20 min, BDNF was assessed in the cortical tissues based on Western blot and the SDF-1α and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) levels in the plasma determined by ELISA. To assess the protective effects of EA against ischemic injury, the mice received once a day 20 min EA preconditioning for three days prior to the ischemic event. Focal cerebral ischemia was then induced by photothrombotic cortical ischemia. Infarct volumes, neurobehavioral deficit and motor deficit were evaluated 24 h after focal cerebral ischemia.


The expression of BDNF protein increased significantly from 6 h, reaching a plateau at 12 h after the end of EA treatment in the cerebral cortex. Furthermore, SDF-1α, not VEGF, increased singnificantly from 12 h to 48 h after EA stimulation in the plasma. Moreover, EA preconditioning reduced the infarct volume by 43.5% when compared to control mice at 24 h after photothrombotic cortical ischemia. Consistent with a smaller infarct size, EA preconditioning showed prominent improvement of neurological function and motor function such as vestibule-motor function, sensori-motor function and asymmetric forelimb use. The expression of BDNF colocalized within neurons and SDF-1α colocalized within the cerebral vascular endothelium was observed throughout the ischemic cortex by EA.


Pretreatment with EA increased the production of BDNF and SDF-1α, which elicited protective effects against focal cerebral ischemia. These results suggest a novel mechanism of EA pretreatment-induced tolerance against cerebral ischemic injury.

Focal cerebral ischemia; Electroacupuncture; BDNF; SDF-1α; Preconditioning