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Chinese Medicine Inspires Western Scientists

January 30, 2014

U.S. studies originating from Chinese herbal medicine have made significant contributions to the practice of medicine. Today, similar studies are under way to determine the mechanism behind a number of medicinal herbs that China has used for thousands of years.

A treatment adapted from Chinese medicine, arsenic trioxide in combination with all-trans retinoic acid was found to be more effective than standard chemotherapy. Dr. Richard Stone, director of the adult acute leukemia program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, states that following these results, “arsenic trioxide should become the new standard for [leukemia] patients to use it.” According to Dr. Stone, the treatment still presents side effects that affect the skin and heart, but for most people, it is a better choice than chemotherapy. Chinese herbal medicine has already made similar strides with artemisinin, which has become the most potent anti-malaria drug available. Currently, researchers are also studying triptolide, a natural product of the traditional Chinese medicinal plant lei gong teng (also known as “thunder god vine”). Dr. Jun Liu, one of the researchers in this particular study and a professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences at John Hopkins University, reported that the product was effective against cancer in animal models, and that scientists in the West are now studying exactly how it works.

To access the article on NPR click here.

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