Sunday, December 13, 2009

Using the TCM Pharmacopeia to Make Western-style Drugs

This 2007 article from Chemistry World reminds me why I'm glad to be doing Traditional Chinese Medicine. The key difference between TCM and Western medicine is not in the implements or the ingredients, but in the diagnostic view.

At least 1.1 billion adults and 10 per cent of children around the world are now overweight or obese, according to the International Obesity Task Force. As more people become heavier, they become vulnerable to type 2 diabetes, a potentially fatal condition. Hotamisligil's investigations have uncovered the key pathway that leads to diabetes.

Obesity makes unusual demands on fat cells - they become stressed. When a person piles on the pounds, a cellular organelle called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is forced to work harder than usual to process the surplus fat. To cope with the extra workload, the ER normally counts on a built-in pack of chemical chaperones that help process fats and proteins.

But if the ER still feels the strain, it starts faltering, igniting a chain reaction that eventually shuts down insulin pathways and precipitates diabetes. The Harvard team hopes to prevent ER stress by supplying cells with extra chaperones. They tried supplying the ER with tauro ursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA) and another small molecular drug PBA (4-phenyl butyric acid) as potential chaperones in two sets of obese mice.

The results were pretty spectacular: the compounds alleviated ER stress, and after one week of treatment, glucose levels in both sets of obese mice returned to normal. There was a benign effect on the liver too, reducing the presence of fatty deposits that often lead to cirrhosis.

Seriously?? If you want to reduce the strain on the endoplasmic reticulum, wouldn't losing weight via exercise and dietary regulation be a much better option than taking TUDCA and PBA? As an emergency treatment for someone with advanced type 2 diabetes, this could be very useful. But taking black bear bile and then continuing to lead a sedentary lifestyle and eat excessive amounts of sugar and fatty foods is not a prescription for health.

Personally I hate taking any kind of medicine - I don't like getting acupuncture, I don't like taking bitter herbs, and I don't like eating bland food. I do love to move, and that's my usual medicine - lots and lots of exercise. So I don't understand why people could be content with taking powerful drugs every day for the rest of their lives. To me, it defies comprehension, but I have met people like that - "yeah, I'm sick, I have such-and-such condition, but the doctor gave me a prescription, so now I'm taking Tulupa (hexomethacripulate 600mg)" - and that's the end of the story. Really? So, how long will you be taking that for? "I don't know, the doctor didn't say." EEEEERRRRRRRGGGHHHHHHH!!!! It's just odd to to me. I don't get it. Why do you want to poison yourself like that? Medicine is not benign. There are always side effects - get out your magnifying glass and read the package insert. Chinese herbs tend to have much milder side effects, which is why when I'm sick that's my first option.

Take a look at the whole article here.

[Note: there is no such drug as Tulupa. As far as I know.]

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