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Genomics and Traditional Chinese Medicine: A New Driver for Novel Molecular-Targeted Personalized Medicine?

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Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a range of medical practices and health interventions used in China for more than four millennia. While TCM continues to impact healthcare and population health in the Asia-Pacific, it has also received growing attention globally over the last decade. This paper argues that we are currently at a critical junction to accelerate both TCM and its evidence base with the availability of genomics as well as postgenomics technologies such as functional proteomics. On the one hand, TCM stands to benefit from such data-intensive omics technologies, for example, by elucidation of the active molecular substrates of TCM and mechanism of herb-herb and herb-drug interactions often encountered in TCM practice with increasing convergence of traditional and western medicine. On the other hand, TCM offers a rich resource for genomics applications such as novel drug target discovery, molecular ascertainment of hitherto unexplained or understudied clinical and pharmacoepidemiology observations in TCM, and deep phenotyping of health outcomes attendant to use of traditional healthcare prevalent in many parts of the developing countries. Ultimately, genomics can help TCM build a stronger evidence-based practice, and a more versatile range of genomics and personalized medicine applications that are closely attuned to the actual practice of global health, including and beyond developing countries. We conclude with an outlook on the enormous promise anticipated from the integration of TCM with genomics as a new driver for novel molecular-targeted personalized medicine, and the future directions and challenges in this hitherto neglected dimension of postgenomics global personalized medicine.
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Keywords: Asia-Pacific drug discovery; TCM; genomics; global public health; modernization of TCM; personalized medicine; traditional Chinese medicine

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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