A Study on the Migration of Radioactive Tracers after Injection at Acupoints

Author: Darras J-C//de Vernejoul P//AlbarËde P
Affiliation: C.H.U. Necker - Enfants Malades, F-75 743 Paris Cedex 15, France
Conference/Journal: American Journal of Acupuncture
Date published: 1992
Other: Volume ID: 20 , Issue ID: 3 , Word Count: 661

Objective: This paper reports on the authors'
investigation of the pathways of acupuncture meridians
in the human body through the injection of radioactive
tracers (isotopes) at acupuncture points.

Design: The radioactive tracer used was the most
common radioactive tracer, techetium-99m (99mTc), as
sodium pertechnetate. The experiment was conducted
with a gamma camera, a Siemens SAM (small-area mobile)
digital scintillation camera. Image analysis was
conducted by a computer system built into the camera.
Morphological studies and quantitative dynamic studies
were conducted.

The morphological studies consisted ue characteristics
of the pathways observed in the analytical studies and
thus eliminate a vascular or lymphatic explanation. To
investigate the vascular pathways, two radiotracers of
different energies and therefore discernible by
spectrometry were utilised: Technetium-99m was
injected as an acupoint and Thallium (201TI) was
injected in a small vein situated next to that
acupoint. To study the possible relationship between
the lymphatic pathways and those demonstrated by the
radiotracer, the same dose (20 MBq) and volume
(0.05ml) of pertechnetate was simultaneously injected
at an acupoint and the first interdigital space of the
foot. A quantitative study of the previous data was
conducted after selecting two mirror regions of
identical shape and size on the leg along the Liver
meridian (an acupuncture meridian) and similar
'background noise regions' outside the pathways.

Sequential study and stimulation studies were
conducted as part of quantitative dynamic studies. The
goal of the sequential study was to evaluate the speed
of radiotracer migration along preferential pathways.
In healthy control subjects and patients with
unilateral renal pathology, two sodium pertechnetate
injections of identical volume and activity were given
simultaneously at the left and fight acupoints K-7. In
the stimulation study, mechanical, electrical, and
thermal stimulation were performed on certain
acupoints after the injection of radiotracers to study
the migration of the radiotracers.

Laboratory experiments conducted in collaboration with
the Cytology Laboratory of the Military Hospital of
Percy in Paris tested modifications of granulocyte
membrane potentials during stimulation of an acupoint
using either a needle or a laser beam. The cell
membrane potential was measured with a fluorometric
method on blood sampled one minute after the end of
injections or stimulation's, and compared with control
blood from the same subject.

Setting: The work was conducted on patients from the
Department of Urology and from the Acupuncture
Department of Biophysics and Nuclear Medicine from the
Necker Hospital in Paris. Each experiment was repeated
several times.

Patients and Other Participants: The work was
conducted on over 250 healthy control subjects and on
80 patients with renal pathology.

Main Outcome Measures: The authors expected to find
that the preferential pathways taken by the
radiotracers coincide with the acupuncture meridians
as described in Chinese traditional medicine and that
these pathways are distinguishable from either
lymphatic or vascular mutes.
Results: Morphological studies found those tracer
migrations from acupoints in both healthy and sick
patients followed the same identical pathways with
those described as 'meridians' in Chinese traditional
medicine. The results suggest that these pathways are
different from vascular and lymphatic pathways.

The quantitative dynamic studies found that in
injections at bilateral K-7, there was a faster
diffusion on the healthy side, and slower diffusion on
the diseased side. In inflammatory organ disease,
there was increased migration speed of the radiotracer
in the meridian of the related organ. A reduced tracer
migration speed is indicative of a degenerative
disease, such as cancer. Such findings could be used
as the basis of a therapeutic evaluation or diagnosis.
The laboratory experiments with cell membranes
suggests that acupoint stimulation could be used to
provoke constant and reproducible change in cellular

Conclusion: The migration speed and patterns of a
radioactive tracer along pathways which coincide with
the Chinese acupuncture meridians show that these
routes have neither a vascular nor a lympathic origin.
These pathways are very likely related to the
connective tissue diffusion following the
neurovascular bundles along the extremities. Findings
suggest the hypothesis of the intervention of a
neurochemical mechanism in information transmission.