Sacral nerve stimulation prompts vagally-mediated amelioration of rodent colitis

Trisha S. Pasricha, Han Zhang, Nina Zhang, Jiande D.Z. Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Neuromodulation based on the vagal anti-inflammatory reflex has emerged as an exciting therapeutic approach for chronic inflammatory diseases. However, it is unclear whether direct stimulation of the vagus or of pelvic nerves coming from sacral roots, providing the bulk of colonic parasympathetic innervation, is the best approach. We hypothesized that sacral nerve stimulation (SNS) would be an effective treatment for colitis. Age and sex-matched Sprague-Dawley rats were administered 5% dextran sulphate sodium (DSS) in drinking water ad libitum for 7 days. A group of rats was sacrificed after DSS treatment, and the remaining rats were randomized to either sham-SNS or SNS groups, which were performed for 1 hr daily for 10 days. Stimulations were delivered via chronically implanted electrodes using an 8-channel universal pulse generator. Sacral nerve stimulation promoted recovery of colitis demonstrated by decreased disease activity index, myeloperoxidase activity, tissue TNF-alpha, and histological scores as well as an increased colonic M2 macrophage population. Heart rate variability analysis demonstrated a decrease in low frequency and increase in high frequency with SNS, corresponding to increased vagal tone. Additionally, plasma pancreatic peptide was increased and norepinephrine was decreased after SNS in colitis while colon tissue acetylcholine was increased with SNS. This is the first study to the best of our knowledge that demonstrates the benefit of SNS with autonomic mediation. SNS alters the expression of inflammatory cytokines and macrophages as well as modulates neurotransmitters involved in systemic inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere14294
JournalPhysiological Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • DSS colitis
  • heart rate variability
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • sacral nerve stimulation
  • sympathovagal balance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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