Signaling and Cell Physiology

Pflügers Archiv - European Journal of Physiology

, 462:587

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Physiology and cell biology of acupuncture observed in calcium signaling activated by acoustic shear wave

  • Geng LiAffiliated withTime Medical Systems
  • , Jie-Ming LiangAffiliated withBiomedical Engineering, The University of Hong Kong
  • , Pei-Wen LiAffiliated withEE Department, National Central University
  • , Xiaoqiang YaoAffiliated withSchool of Biomedical Sciences, Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • , Peter Zhong PeiAffiliated withDepartment Neurology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University
  • , Wei LiAffiliated withDepartment Neurology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University
  • , Qi-Hua HeAffiliated withHealth Science Center, Peking University
  • , Xifei YangAffiliated withShenzhen Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  • , Queenie C. C. ChanAffiliated withPhilips Electronics HK Ltd
    • , Paul Y. S. CheungAffiliated withThe University of Hong Kong
    • , Qi Yuan MaAffiliated withTime Medical Systems
    • , Siu Kam LamAffiliated withThe University of Hong Kong
    • , Patrick Y. C. ChengAffiliated withThe University of Hong Kong
    • , Edward S. YangAffiliated withTime Medical SystemsThe University of Hong KongEE Department, National Central UniversityColumbia University Email author 


This article presents a novel model of acupuncture physiology based on cellular calcium activation by an acoustic shear wave (ASW) generated by the mechanical movement of the needle. An acupuncture needle was driven by a piezoelectric transducer at 100 Hz or below, and the ASW in human calf was imaged by magnetic resonance elastography. At the cell level, the ASW activated intracellular Ca2+ transients and oscillations in fibroblasts and endothelial, ventricular myocytes and neuronal PC-12 cells along with frequency–amplitude tuning and memory capabilities. Monitoring in vivo mammalian experiments with ASW, enhancement of endorphin in blood plasma and blocking by Gd3+ were observed; and increased Ca2+ fluorescence in mouse hind leg muscle was imaged by two-photon microscopy. In contrast with traditional acupuncture models, the signal source is derived from the total acoustic energy. ASW signaling makes use of the anisotropy of elasticity of tissues as its waveguides for transmission and that cell activation is not based on the nervous system.


Acupuncture Acoustic wave MRE Ca2+ ion channel Human Mice Fibroblast Endothelial cells