Effect of Massage Therapy in Regulating Wnt/β-Catenin Pathway on Retarding Denervated Muscle Atrophy in Rabbits

  • Wei-feng Hu
    The Third School of Clinical Medicine (School of Rehabilitation Medicine), Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, Zhejiang, China
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  • Ru-bao Guo
    Corresponding author: Ru-bao Guo, MD, No. 219, Moganshan Road, Xihu District, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, 310000, China
    Department of Intervertebral Discs, The Third Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, Zhejiang, China

    The Third School of Clinical Medicine (School of Rehabilitation Medicine), Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, Zhejiang, China
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Published:October 27, 2022DOI:



      The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of massage therapy on retarding denervated muscle atrophy in rabbits.


      The denervated skeletal muscle atrophy rabbit model was established with the clamping rabbit tibial nerve method. On the third and first day after clamping the rabbit tibial nerve, the model rabbits were treated with massage or nerve growth factor (15 μg/mL) once a day for 8 weeks, respectively. Subsequently, gastrocnemius tissues were collected from rabbits and detected by electromyography. The gastrocnemius tissue sections were stained with hematoxylin and eosin and Sirius red staining to evaluate the histopathologic damage of denervated muscle atrophy in a rabbit model. Furthermore, the proliferation and differentiation-related targets of satellite cells in gastrocnemius tissues were detected by immunohistochemical, immunofluorescence, real-time quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, and Western blot assays, respectively. Also, the effects of massage on the Wnt/β-catenin pathway were detected. Finally, gastrocnemius myocytes were isolated from rabbits to detect the expression levels of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA).


      The nerve conduction deteriorated continuously with time in model rabbits. Massage significantly ameliorated the pathologic damages and motor endplate microstructure of gastrocnemius muscle, effectively prevented fibrosis, and regulated the proliferation and differentiation-related messenger RNA and protein expression of satellite cells with the time increased after denervation. Additionally, the number of differentiating satellite cells was increased after being treated with massage, and massage further kept denervated muscles from atrophy. Importantly, the effect of massage to attenuate muscle atrophy was associated with the activation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. Meanwhile, massage reduced the expression of α-SMA in gastrocnemius myocytes.


      This model demonstrated that massage delayed the atrophy of skeletal muscle. This was probably accomplished by regulating the proliferation and differentiation of the satellite cells via the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway.

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