Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic and chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease characterized by severe synovial hyperplasia associated with progressive cartilage degradation. Due to the severe pain and disability caused by RA, effective therapeutic strategies that could simultaneously alleviate the inflammatory response and delay the disease progression are urgently needed. As a major alternative therapy in traditional Chinese medicine, moxibustion has been demonstrated that it could reduce the chronic inflammatory responses of a series of musculoskeletal diseases; however, whether moxibustion has protective effects on RA is still unclear. To investigate the effects of moxibustion on RA, moxibustion was applied to Zusanli (ST36) and Shenshu (BL23) acupoints in a RA rabbit model. HE staining of articular cartilage showed that moxibustion alleviated the cartilage degradation and bone destruction. In addition, moxibustion decreased the osteoclast number in RA rabbits. Real-time PCR revealed that moxibustion decreased the expression of RANKL mRNA while increased the expression of OPG mRNA, indicating a restoration of the balance between osteogenesis and osteoclastogenesis. Taken together, our results indicated that moxibustion had promising antiarthritic effects and could be an useful alternative method in RA therapeutics
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