Traditional Chinese medicine under the microscope
Chinese scientists are preparing to begin a 15-year project to screen the constituents of traditional Chinese medicines (TCMs).
The 'Herbalome Project' will use high throughput screening, toxicity tests and clinical trials to identify active ingredients and contaminants in known TCMs — of which there are as many as 400,000 combinations of 10,000 herbs and animal extracts.
The researchers hope the project will modernise the field, lead to better quality control and improve the reported downsides of TCM: uneven efficacy and quality, and harsh side effects. It could also identify potential drugs for Western medicine.
The scientists are already developing new methods of separating the various components of TCMs into 'multicomponents' — groups of similar ingredients. They also plan to devise 'Herbalome chips', with which compounds are tested for their ability to bind to certain peptides.