Background: Allergic rhinitis affects approximately 30% of adults and up to 40% of children in industrialized societies. Medicines available for relief of allergic rhinitis symptoms include antihistamines, decongestants, leukotriene inhibitors, topical hormones, and corticosteroids. However, the negative side-effects of antiallergic medicines cause many patients with allergic rhinitis to choose traditional Chinese medical treatments, such as taking Chinese herbs or treatment with acupuncture. Objectives: This study assessed the effect of acupuncture for treatment of allergic rhinitis. Methods: Eighteen (18) patients with allergic rhinitis were treated with acupuncture 8 times over a 4-week period, and peripheral blood of these patients was collected at each visit for analysis of gene expression via cDNA microarray. To estimate the therapeutic effect of acupuncture objectively, patients completed the rhinoconjunctivitis quality of life questionnaire (RQLQ) before and after acupuncture therapy. Results: Based upon patients' response to the RQLQ, acupuncture therapy significantly reduced allergic rhinitis symptoms, including nasal symptoms, non-hay fever symptoms, and sleep and practical problems (associated with daily activities). In addition, expression of interleukin-1 receptor-α (IL1R1) in peripheral blood was significantly decreased at 2 hours, 24 hours, and 4 weeks after acupuncture treatment in these patients. Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first report of cDNA microarray analysis of differential gene expression in the peripheral blood of patients with allergic rhinitis before and after acupuncture treatment. Our data suggest that the balance between T-helper 1 and T-helper 2 cell-derived proinflammatory versus anti-inflammatory cytokines might be improved by acupuncture treatment.
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