Chem-TCM Database Links Chinese and Western Medicine

Chem-TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) breaks down 350 herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. The digital database relates traditional Chinese herbal medicine to Western pharmaceutical counterparts on the molecular level.

Parkinson’s Disease, HIV/AIDS and cancer treatments could benefit from the ethnopharmacological study which took place at King?s College in London. The study combined research and computational chemistry. The resulting data base includes both botanical and chemical information. Chem-TCM says: "Ethnopharmacological data could play an important role in pharmaceutical prospecting from Chinese herbs as well as identifying links between Chinese and Western medicine."

The study predicted activities for each molecular record covering 41 therapeutically significant targets in Western medicine. Some of the more familiar areas of interest are:

  • Dopamine receptors which are of concern in managing Parkinson?s Disease and schizophrenia.
  • HIV-1 protease which is targeted in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.
  • Estrogen receptors and estrogen aromatase which are involved in liver function, as well as breast and uterine cancer.

Estrogen can have both a positive and negative effect

Estrogen can have both a positive and negative effect

Dopamine affects brain processes that control movement, emotional response, and ability to experience pleasure and pain. Drugs are used to either stimulate or block dopamine receptors in Parkinson?s and schizophrenia respectively. An herb from the Chinese medicine bag, Cowhage (Mucuna pruriens), contains levodopa, a substance found in prescription medications used in Parkinson?s treatment. A small study showed the herb had better results than the pharmaceutical form of levodopa used in Western circles.

A problem confronting Parkinson drug use is controlling teeter totter adverse side effects. Li Min, a traditional Chinese doctor at Hong Kong Baptist University screened another traditional herb, gou teng, for its active compounds and their effect. Gou teng appears to stabilize symptoms, she says. The additional benefit of gou teng, is that it has been taken for centuries with no apparent side effects.

The Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics  (RCSB) Protein Data Bank explains the function of HIV-1 protease thus: HIV-1 performs an essential step in the life cycle of HIV. It is an excellent target for drug therapy. Drugs bind tightly to the protease, blocking its action, and the virus perishes because it is unable to mature into its infectious form.

Aromatease inhibitor on how to stop Estrogen-Cancer connectionAn estrogen receptor is a protein molecule found inside those cells that are targets for estrogen action. In liver cells, estrogen alters the production of proteins that influence cholesterol levels in the blood to increase the amount of HDL and to decrease LDL, thus lowering the risk of heart disease. On another front, the hormone estrogen helps cells, both good and bad/cancerous, to grow. Aromatase inhibitors can help block the growth of tumors by lowering the amount of estrogen in the body. Chinese herbs analyzed in the data base may contribute to better control.

In Chinese medicine, herbs are classified according to whether they have a warming or cooling effect on the body. Herbs and herbal formulas are organized into categories, based on diagnostic patterns. The categories have esoteric names, such as herbs that: 

  • Dispel Wind Dampness: these help arthritis and skin conditions, by increasing circulation and reducing swelling and inflammation.
  • Clear Internal Wind and Tremors: these treat muscle spasms, hypertension, and involuntary movements.
  • Regulate Qi: these remove stagnation from the digestive system and move qi that is stuck in the liver.

Traditional Chinese herbal medicine components come from natureDr David Barlow of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Science Kings College says: "Traditional Chinese medicine has undergone a remarkable renaissance in recent years." He admits however that "the unique language used to describe categories of medicines has hindered effective understanding of one of the most developed and mature systems of alternative medicine in existence."

TimTec, a privately held company in Newark, Delaware, specializes in the acquisition and distribution of synthetic organic and natural compounds, custom synthesis, scientific software and laboratory equipment to become a full service partner for drug discovery. They are the licensee for the Chem-TCM database.

Correlating modern medicine to ancient practices with an open mind can only benefit mankind. The Chem-TCM database is a valuable research tool for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, academic researchers, not to mention the medical and alternative health care professions.