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|Prof. Helene Langevin|
Dr. Helene Langevin
Director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School & Brigham and Women's Hospital
Title: Effects of acupuncture on connective tissue: link to purinergic signaling
Related Session: Acupuncture and Peripheral and Central Mechanism
Okay, first of all, thank you very much for saying yes to this interview. My first question today is, you made quite a big impression to the world with connecting the dots between connective tissue and acupuncture.
So, how did you come up with that idea in the first? How did you relate those two?
It was just a practical observation of needling when I was a student. I studied acupuncture and I learned how to insert the needle and manipulate the needle. And I could observe and feel that there was a reaction in the body, around where the needle was that changed the mechanical interaction between the needle and the tissue where the tissue seemed more tight as the needle was being manipulated there was something that I could feel myself. Not just the patient feel but I felt it, too. And I would ask my teacher what is causing this. And they would say well, it’s muscle probably contracting. But there are some points in the body like at the wrist, where there’s no muscle at all. And you can still feel that. So, I thought well, is this something that is measurable probably that I can feel but there’s no physiological explanation for this. So, let’s see first if we can measure it.
So, we designed a robotic device that could insert the needle, turn the needle and then pull it out and see if we can measure the force that it takes to pull the needle out. That was the first indication that this is a measurable phenomenon. And then we did some experiments in animal where we saw, where this increase in the force was related to the connective tissue kind of wrapping and winding around the needle that was causing tightness that got me interested in looking at the effects of the needle on the connective tissue and connective tissue in general.
And what was the different feeling between feelings on acupoints and non-acupoints?
Not much different. No. When the measurement showed a small increase in the force at the acupuncture point, but only 20 percent. It’s not a big difference. I think that this response to the connective tissue is not specific to the acupuncture points. It occurs everywhere, but little bit more at the acupuncture points because I think at some of those points, maybe not at everyone, the needle can get little bit deeper in the connective tissue because they’re situated, some of them, not all of them, some of them are situated in between muscles. So there, your needle can go into deeper connective tissue, that’s where the blood vessels and nerves are anyway. And so, I think maybe that’s way we measure slightly... I don’t think there’s anything completely different about acupuncture points and non-acupuncture points.
Because some teachers say that when we locate acupuncture, when it goes in right way, it is more smoother than non-acupuncture point.
Maybe. But I don’t, we have never been able to discern, distinguish that in our research. We have not been able to determine something that tells you if you’re in the acupuncture point or not. So, I really feel that whatever we are doing is more, has to do with whether the needle is in the connective tissue or not. And because connective tissue is everywhere in the body, not just at acupuncture points, it makes sense. That it’s not something that is only localized. Not to say that acupuncture points are irrelevant. I don’t think they are. I think they are a map that was designed to help guide where to put the needle. But we all know that people will locate a point differently, from one person to another person, where they feel it. It’s not absolute. It’s just a guide, I think.
But in general, acupoints are between muscles?
Some of them are, yeah.
So, it could be different with non-acupoints, because some acupoints are yeah...
That’s right. The non-acupuncture points, we go away from the fascia plane, onto the surface of the muscle where the connective tissue is different. It’s just more on the surface. Whereas, at the acupuncture point, they could go a little deeper. They talk about channels, you know? And I think, it’s a nice visualization for me. I think of the channel of connective tissue between the muscles. And that’s the place where I think you see some interesting effects.
Okay, here is the next question. Talking about channel, well, we usually put acupuncture needle into one side and then talk about some other points in the body, not the point where we put the needle. We talk about how things happen on the distal part from the acupuncture point. And what do you think about that and connective tissue?
Depends yeah, depends what we mean by distal. So, distal meaning, like a little bit further away but along the same path of connective tissue. I think that makes sense with the research that I am doing. Because you know, at least in small animals that, their responses of connective tissue and the fibroblast is not only around the needle. It can go a distance away.
But if you go to a larger animal or human, we don’t know how far this goes. It could just be still only a few centimeters, you know?
We have not done research where we’ve looked at what happens on the other side of the body or way up the leg or down the leg; we have not done that, because we are restricted in our research to small mice and rats. So, in these animals, one centimeter, two centimeter difference is a big difference, big distance, it goes all the way down their leg.
In the human, two centimeters is not going very far. But, the size of the fibroblast in the rat is a same size as the fibroblast in the human. So at the molecular and cellular level, you don’t have a difference in the distance of these effects. But at the macroscopic level, you have a difference. So, this is a problem of scale, you know? There’s... the way that the human body is constructed is a very different scale. And a ratio between... the distance between the elbow and your wrist in a human versus a mouse, the difference between that and the size of a cell is a complete different order of magnitude, so we have to be very careful about that, about drawing conclusions.
I see, yeah. I think that’s a very interesting subject to study further.
Okay, thank you very much for your time.
Thank you very much.