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Volume 21, Number 4, 2009

# Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
DOI: 10.1089=acu.2009.2001

The Future of Integrating Acupuncture

and Modern Biomedical Science

Charles Shang, MD

I n the past 20 years, basic acupuncture research has

emerged from infancy, plagued by descriptive, retro-
spective mindsets and arbitrary animal models with little
treatments such as aspirin and statin drugs, which are most
effective in treating patients with advanced disease. As
predicted, acupuncture effect has been shown to be in-
relevance to clinical practice,1 into a truly integrative dis- versely correlated to the disease chronicity, severity, and
cipline with significant foresight and insight, capable of patient’s age.17 In this age of improving cost-effectiveness
predicting results years ahead of actual experiments in both of healthcare, focusing on efficient point selection (using
acupuncture and conventional biomedical sciences,2 and relatively few acupoints in each treatment), and efficient
meeting the gold standard of science. It is leading to the modality (e.g., transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimula-
understanding of the growth control system, which is em- tion instead of manual needling) will be important. It is
bedded in function-based physiological systems and there- likely that using too many acupoints in the treatment group
fore often overlooked, but is increasingly clear to be an has contributed to the mediocre results that are indistin-
important foundation of pathophysiology. guishable from those of sham groups in clinical trials.2
This system is not just an aggregate of cells and mole-
cules, but also an intricate web of morphogen gradient field
intertwined with bioelectric field involving singular points DISCLOSURE STATEMENT
and separatrices (boundaries).3 This web originates from
a network of organizers in embryogenesis and develops No competing financial interests exist.
into the Meridian system.2 The significance of this system
would be no less than that of immune or circulatory systems.
Based on the growth model backed by increasing evidence, REFERENCES
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Editor’s Note: We welcome and encourage your Guest Editorials. Please submit to our Managing Editor at rosalynr@aol.com.


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presses expression of gastric ghrelin and hypothalamic NPY E-mail: cshang@bcm.tmc.edu