Western medicine looks to the East

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Western medicine looks to the East

Until recently TCM has been virtually ignored by Western medicine. But is gaining more followers.


Traditional Chinese medicine teaches us that some people are likely to have fever and inflammation in parts of the body, while others are more likely to catch colds. Such as entrenched ideas in Asia are based on thousands of years of experience with patients, but are not supported by many scientific studies.

Researchers from some of the best universities in China, those who now have joined Europe and the US, are using Western techniques to analyze complex biological systems and adapt to the Chinese notion that the body is an interconnected whole. The idea is to study how genes interact and proteins in the body as a disease develops rather than examining genes or molecules separately. "Traditional Chinese medicine treats diseases from all points of view, explica Jennifer Wan, Professor of Biology at the University of Hong Kong, specializing in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM, for its acronym in English). Western medicine tends to examine people and diseases separately; this does not help to have a thorough understanding of the disease, ensures Wan. To achieve these objectives, Research on Traditional Chinese Medicine should improve.

With the studies of Chinese herbal remedies, for example, scientists do not usually record the plants studied, making it difficult to know what the remedies are made. Qihe Xu, professor at King's College London, recently acted as coordinator of a committee 200 Scientists intended to study the best practices of traditional Chinese medicine. Experts, if TCM treatments be endorsed by more scientific studies, could serve for drug development.


According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, diseases arise from imbalances in the body caused by an environment or an unhealthy lifestyle. Symptoms like having dry mouth or coated tongue are signs of a malfunction of some body systems. Although Western doctors often ignore these signs, in traditional Chinese medicine are a guide to treat patients.

A skilled doctor of TCM to know if someone has the syndrome of cold or heat can use this information as the first track to study related to the immune system or metabolism problems, as gastritis, rheumatoid arthritis or cancer. In cities across China are doctors who practice TCM and other professionals who prefer western medicine. Many patients come to the latter for certain situations, as a serious illness, but prefer traditional medicine as a measure to prevent disease. Until recent years, TCM has been virtually ignored by Western medicine, but is lately gaining popularity among the scientific community.

The US government established in 1998 National Centrol for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The organization already has a budget of over 120 million to fund research on the efficacy and safety of alternative medicine. One of the aspects that most scientists are studying TCM is syndrome of cold or heat. Although the work is still in its initial phase, I could turn around research integrating biological approaches to the experience of patient care in TCM, says Dr. Cheng, Yale University, who also chairs the Consortium for Globalization of Chinese Medicine.

In a number of studies, el doctor Shao Li, Deputy Director of the Division of Bioinformatics, Tsinghua University Beijing, and his team examined patients with syndromes of cold and heat to check if they showed symptoms from conditions such as gastritis. To determine whether patients with gastritis syndromes were cold or heat, researchers raised questions as whether patients had cold extremities, if they had a preference for hot drinks or tendency to catch cold. Doctors also examine the mood of patients: one of the symptoms of subjects with cold syndrome is apathy. According to Li, easy to detect these symptoms could be useful. It remains to be seen whether the treatment would be different for patients suffering cold or heat syndrome of the same disease.

Chinese medicine expert examined in both types of patients, paying attention to the chemicals produced by your body's immune system related. The differences between them could lead to different treatments depending on the type of patient. People with cold syndrome may benefit from hormone treatments, whereas individuals with heat syndrome may need immune therapies, believes Herman van Wietmarschen, researcher at the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research.

Other studies also found differences in the chemical composition of urine as a function of cold or heat syndrome. Li's group continues to test the biological markers associated syndromes of cold and heat to classify different types of diseases, including cancer. The next step will be to develop more personalized treatments for serious diseases based on the two syndromes. Researchers believe they can find a better way to connect the Eastern and Western medicine.

Source: Expansión.com

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