Research Roundup: Acupuncture. Immunity. and T cells.


This week we’re going to introduce something new to the community by offering an analysis of current research topics related to acupuncture. This research comes directly from the National Institute for Health’s database called PubMed ( This database is updated constantly and is the world’s largest medical library. As acupuncture continues to be accepted and utilized, more and more high-quality research is performed and published through this system. We’re going to breakdown the information in these not-so-easy to read articles and present them in more relevant clinical applications. As patients or prospective patients (hi! I see you out there! 👋) it is important for you to understand that you are receiving evidence informed treatments and you yourself are given the opportunity to be more informed about acupuncture and how it works.

Research Roundup will be hosted by my guest author, Dr. Patrick Downie. He is a chiropractic physician and has been involved in the acupuncture education profession for over 15 years. He has taught for acupuncture colleges in Chicago, Illinois, Santa Monica, California and Sarasota, Florida. He has been a professor, department chair, and academic dean during his tenure. He currently teaches in a research-focused acupuncture doctoral program and consistently reviews the acupuncture literature. It is a great honor to have him writing for us outside of his normal academic setting, and bringing you up to speed on current research.

Acupuncture and Immunity

Of particular importance during these unusual times is the immune system. A robust immune system can defend the body against a variety of microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses. Modern lifestyle elements, such as stress, poor food choices, and lack of sleep, can impair the immune system’s ability to work at peak efficiency.

Dr. Rhoads has mentioned to you before that acupuncture can boost the immune system, but how can it do that?

A recent article published just this past April explored acupuncture’s effect on this very topic. Your immune system is complex and consists of many linked components. One very important aspect is the cells. There are many cells that work together to maintain an effective immune system. There are the B cells that produce antibodies and there are the T cells that play a role in surveillance and specifically killing target cells. While there are many types of T cells with differing functions, two, in particular, are worth noting. These are the helper T cells, usually denoted as T4 or CD 4 cells and the killer T cells, usually denoted as T8 or CD 8 cells. They work together to limit the spread of microorganisms, and their balance is critical, with too few or too many of either disrupting how well the system works. This particular article demonstrated that the study found that acupuncture can restore the CD 4/CD 8 ratio, improving the immune function of patients. The study was focused on patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, but the study is applicable in the current environment of COVID-19.

While this is just one article, it does demonstrate two things; that acupuncture does have a developing research basis, and that acupuncture works by directly affecting the body’s existing cells and systems. As with any exploration into how something works, more information from continued research is required. Acupuncture works, there is no doubt there. How it works is supported by the increasing body of evidence that the research is showing.

We hoped that you enjoyed your introduction to Rhoads to Health Research Roundup. More reviews will be posted in the coming weeks and months.


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