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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013, Article ID 350949, 7 pages
Research Article

ATP Release from Mast Cells by Physical Stimulation: A Putative Early Step in Activation of Acupuncture Points

1Acupuncture and Moxibustion College, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1200 Cailun Road, Shanghai 201203, China
2Shanghai Research Center for Acupuncture and Meridians, 199 Guoshoujing Road, Shanghai 201203, China
3Research Centre, Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, 3850 St. Urbain Street, Montréal, QC, Canada H2W 1T8
4Department of Biology and Environmental Protection, Poznan University of Medical Sciences, 1/2 Dluga Street, 61-848 Poznan, Poland
5Department of Medicine, Université de Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada H3C 3T5
6Institute for Biophysics, Goethe-University Frankfurt, Max-von-Laue Straβe 1, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Received 10 March 2013; Revised 10 May 2013; Accepted 16 May 2013

Academic Editor: Yi-Hung Chen

Copyright © 2013 Lina Wang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In Chinese medicine acupuncture points are treated by physical stimuli to counteract various diseases. These stimuli include mechanical stress as applied during the needle manipulation or tuina, high temperatures as applied during moxibustion, and red laser light applied during laser acupuncture. This study aimed to investigate cellular responses to stimuli that might occur in the tissue of acupuncture points. Since they have a characteristically high density of mast cells that degranulate in response to acupuncture, we asked whether these processes lead to ATP release. We tested in in vitro experiments on mast cells of the human mast-cell line HMC-1 the effects of the physical stimuli; mechanical stress was applied by superfusion of the cells with hypotonic solution, heat was applied by incubation of the cells at 52°C, and red laser light of 657 nm was used for irradiation. We demonstrate that all the stimuli induce ATP release from model human mast HMC-1 cells, and this release is associated with an intracellular free Ca2+ rise. We hypothesize that ATP released from mast cells supplements the already known release of ATP from keratinocytes and, by acting on P2X receptors, it may serve as initial mediator of acupuncture-induced analgesia.