Chinese Medicine, 2010, 1, 59-62
doi:10.4236/cm.2010.13012 Published Online December 2010 (
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. CM
Modern Technology for Acupuncture Research: A Short
Review from the Medical University of Graz
Lu Wang, Gerhard Litscher*
Research Unit of Biomedica l Engin eering in Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine and TCM
Research Center Graz, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria
Email: {, gerhard.litscher}
Received December 4, 2010; revised December 8, 2010; accepted December 10, 2010
This short review article gives a brief description of the TCM Research Center Graz, especially the part of
high-tech acupuncture research. A new technology for non-invasive acupuncture stimulation using violet
laser (405 nm, 110 mW, 500 µm) is described. With this kind of laser it is possible to induce a so-called Deqi
sensation which is very important in Chinese acupuncture. The second part of the review paper describes the
new teleacupuncture which has been performed for the first time between the China Academy of Chinese
Medical Sciences and the TCM Research Center Graz at the Medical University of Graz.
Keywords: Violet Laser Acupuncture, Teleacupuncture, Sino-Austrian Research, Biomedical Engineering
1. Introduction–TCM Research Center Graz
Many people take the different applications of the laser
in medicine for granted. Although the invention of the
laser is celebrating its 50th ann iversary in 2010 [1 ], there
are still some areas in traditional medicine that require
intensive translational laser research. One of these areas
is innovative laser acupun cture [2].
From acupuncture to the many hundreds of different
medical herbs-traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is
booming. And it is effective: TCM has been practiced
with great success for more than 4,000 years, and the
Western demand for something to complement classical
Western medicine has been increasing for years. Graz
plays a central role in the study of TCM in Europe. In
March 2007 the “Research Center for Traditional Chi-
nese Medicine” was established, and subsequently a
global high-tech acupuncture network developed (see
Figure 1), which integrates the various national and in-
ternational activities in research and teaching. Karl-
Franzens-University Graz and the Medical University of
Graz are the two Austrian universities in the forefront.
The Research Unit of Biomedical Engineering in An-
esthesia and Intensive Care Medicine at the Medical Uni-
versity of Graz ( has been dealing
with high-tech acupuncture research for over 13 years. In
this case, evidence-based, scientific work is the founda-
tion. Consequently, all research is carried out on the ba-
sis of scientific methods (comp. Figure 2) [3-12]. Spe-
cial focus is placed on basic research and those aspects
of TCM, which until now got paid only little attention.
Beside needle acupuncture, both laser- and electroacu-
puncture play a very important role. In addition, first
transcontinental teleacupuncture measurements including
laser acupuncture are realized, which means the patient is
in China and the high-tech analysis is conducted in Graz
via internet connections.
The importance of TCM has grown in recent years.
About seventy percent of the Austrians want classical
Western medicine to be supplemented by complementary
medical services. Similar data exist in Switzerland and
Germany. The acceptance of TCM is particularly high,
with an approval rate of eighty percent. However, not
Figure 1. High-tech acupuncture network of the TCM Re-
search Center Graz.
Figure 2. Modernization of acupunctu re (modified from [13]).
only the population, even the doctors show a growing
interest. For Graz as a location of research, the estab-
lishment of the competence Center will have long-term
positive impacts: already existing cooperations with
other institutions that conduct research in the field of
TCM, will be amplified, and the know-how transfer be-
tween Austria and China will also be intensified.
2. Fascination “Violet Laser Acupuncture”
Only recently the first scientific results concerning a n ew
method of acupuncture, th e ‘violet laser needle acupunc-
ture’, were presented. It is possible to achieve significant
effects such as increases in blood flow in small vessels
with the violet wavelength of 405 nm (Figure 3) and a
specially focused beam at the acupuncture point, despite
low penet ration depth.
Within a cooperative research project between Austria
and China, first scientific results on this new violet laser
acupuncture method were published [13,1 4]. In addition,
the new violet laser can trigger a Deqi feeling, usually
typical for needle acupuncture, which often manifests
itself as a mild electric tingling.
Figure 3. Violet laser acupuncture needle (mod ified from [2]).
For Chinese people, this Deqi feeling is an important
prerequisite for a successful acupuncture treatment.
While using a red or infrared laser that kind of stimulus
is not immediately felt, this is different using the violet
laser. Thirteen adult Chinese volunteers reported an im-
mediately felt stimulus, similar to a Deqi feeling evoked
by a metal needle. “The effect is comparatively not as
strong as an ant bite, but longer-lasting,” said a Chinese
female volunteer. If the acupuncture point Neiguan was
stimulated, there was a significant decrease in heart rate
associated with a pleasant, stress-reducing experience.
This particular point, which is also referred to as “Peri-
card 6” and is located near the wrist crease, is said to
achieve a circulatory-regulating effect according to TCM.
These effects did not occur in a control study in which
the violet laser was turned off. Further investigations,
concerning the question whether this effect is also pre-
sent in Europeans in the same amount, are in progress. In
the future the procedure might be used in patients with
high blood pressure or generally for age-related diseases
of the cardiovascular system as an additive gentle, regu-
latory method. Before that, however, basic research
studies have to be carried out.
3. Teleacupuncture—Patient in China,
Analysis in Austria
The transcontinental teleacupuncture is even more spec-
tacular. The first studies have been carried out success-
fully: 24-hour recordings of the electrical activity of the
heart were registered in patients in China with a system
partially developed in Graz, and immediately after the
acupuncture treatment the data were sent from a bedside
computer in Beijing over a distance of 7650 km via
Internet for computer analysis at the Medical University
of Graz. The acupuncturists in China were informed of
the results immediately. The autonomic nervous system
plays a central role in the current investigations. Com-
puter-based heart rate and heart rate variability meas-
urements are important variables.
Already th e medical scholar Wang Sh u-Ho carried out
observations in China (~ 220 BC.) that are directly re-
lated to heart rate variability (HRV) and the autonomic
nervous system. He noted: “If the heartbeat becomes as
regular as the beating of the woodpecker or the dripping
of rain on the roof the patient will be dead within four
days.” The ‘health indicator’-variable heart rate-is there-
fore already very well known, but found its way into
‘modern’ science only in the last third of th e last century,
moving into many areas of medicine.
By definition, HRV represents percentage changes of
consecutive ventricular complexes (RR intervals) in the
electrocardiogram (ECG), and is modulated by the
lood-pressure control system, influences from the hy- b
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. CM
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. CM
Figure 4. First teleacupunc ture measureme nts between Europe (G raz) and Asia (Beijing). The graphs show sympathetic and
vagal activity, and this can be used to indicate the patient’s health and quality of sleep (modified from [15,16]).
pothalamus and especially by the vagal part of centers in
the lower brain stem.
Figure 4 shows the improvement in health (sleep-
wake cycle) of a 31-year-old female patient from Bei-
jing over the course of more than two months. At the
beginning of treatment (A) the sleep-wake cycle is not
clearly marked. After four acupuncture treatments us-
ing needle and laser needle acupuncture (B), there is a
clearly marked sinus arrhythmia (middle) in the sleep
state (0.2 to 0.3 Hz frequency). After ten acupuncture
treatments (C) this standard pattern has become stable.
For the first time, the therapeutic effect of acupuncture
can be visualized not only subjectively, as described by
the patient, but with computer-based objective data
All further developments of teleacupuncture clearly
show that by cutting out lines of communication,
omission of redundant research studies as well as sim-
plification of the diagnostic and therapeutic process
ultimately not only are costs saved but also time is
The joint research on laser acupuncture between
Europe and China shows one thing clearly: Bridging the
gap between Eastern and Western medicine has become
reality thanks to modern technology. Now we need to
make the resulting opportunities and outcomes available
to all parties.
4. Acknowledgements
The authors thank Ms. Ingrid Gaischek, MSc (Research
Unit of Biomedical Engineering in Anesthesia and Inten-
sive Care Medicine and TCM Research Center Graz,
Medical University of Graz), Ms. Xie Zheng, MD, (Bei-
jing University of Chinese Medicine and Medical Uni-
versity of Graz) and Prof. Zhang Weibo, PhD, and Ms.
Tao Huang, MD PhD (both from the China Academy of
Chinese Medical Sciences).
The investigations were supported by the Austrian
Federal Ministries of Science and Research and of
Health and the Eurasia Pacific Uninet (project ‘Bioengi-
neering and clinical assessment of high-tech acupuncture
-a Sino-Austrian research pilot study’), are also part of
the project 13463 of the Jubiläumsfonds of the
Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB) and are sup-
ported by the Department of Science of the City of Graz.
The measurements were performed within the areas
‘Sustainable Health Research’ and ‘Neuroscience’ at the
Medical University Graz.
This paper was presented in part at the Laser Helsinki
Congress 2010 (Aug 21st, 2010) by the corresponding
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