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Chinese Traditional Medicines Decoded: Scientists Explain How Traditional Medicines Kill Cancer Cells

First Posted: Sep 12, 2016 04:20 AM EDT

Chinese medicine has been used as an alternative for those who do not like "mainstream" medications. These people think that Chinese medications work better, especially in those who have cancer. In a recent report scientists revealed how a combination of plant compounds, derived from ancient clinical practice in China, works to kill cancer cells.

Compound kushen injection (CKI) has been approved to use for use in China to treat different cancer tumors, usually an addition to Western chemotherapy. However, no one really knows how it works. According to the Deccan Chronicle, the study, led by researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia, is the first to characterize the molecular action of a traditional Chinese medicine than break it down to it what it's composed of.

 "Most Traditional Chinese Medicine are based on hundreds or thousands of years of experience with their use in China," said professor David Adelson, Director of the Zhendong Australia China Centre for the Molecular Basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He also said that there is often a lot of evidence that these medications have certain therapeutic benefits, but no one knows or understand why or how.

"If we broke down and tested the components of many Traditional Chinese Medicines, we would find that individual compounds don't have much activity on their own," he said.

The Indian Express reported that for the study, the researchers used next generation sequencing technologies to pinpoint genes and biological pathways targeted by CKI when used in laboratory grown breast cancer cells. Adelson also explained that the researchers found the patterns of genes expression triggered by CKI affect the same pathways as chemotherapy used by western people, but they act on different genes in the same pathways.

Meanwhile, Adelson further explained that these genes regulate the cell cycle of division and death, and it seems that CKI alters the way the cell cycle is regulated to push cancer cells down the cell death pathway, therefore killing the cells. He also said that the technique used to study the molecular mechanism of these traditional Chinese medicines, can be potentially used to also analyze Western medicine.

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