TCM has one of the longest histories of any herbal system known to man. And it has a thick bundle of recent research behind it.
Much TCM research is confused from the Western point of view
The problem with most of this research, at least from a Western perspective, is that the material being studied is often poorly characterized. Most TCM preparations consist of multiple herbal ingredients, with some degree of variance in composition depending on the source. Therefore, when studies use specific substances, for example, Huoxiang Zhengqi Powder, Sanren Decoction or Shenling Baishu Powder, it is difficult to know exactly what was studied and what components of those substances are responsible for the effects observed.
As a result, while some of the results can be considered strongly suggestive, they cannot be considered definitive, at least when viewed closely through the lens of the RCT model that takes place in the West. (With that being said, the poor characterization of study materials was a failure of many Western herbal studies as well.)
The new study has been published in the journalFrontiers in plant sciences. It was the work of researchers associated with many universities, hospitals and research institutes in China.
The authors note that while many TCM preparations have shown good effects in clinical practice, it is not always clear why.
“Functional components and the corresponding pharmacological mechanism of the herbs are unclear,” They said.
Third generation sequencing makes rapid and comprehensive assays easier
The authors note that advanced technology in genetic sequencing has made this type of investigation possible. First generation, or Sanger sequencing, was difficult to apply to complex plant genomes and was slow and expensive to run. Next-generation sequencing was the second iteration of this technology, but according to researchers it still suffers from it “[C]Some drawbacks, such as short read length (typically 200–800 bp), base mismatch, GC preference, and template migration during PCR amplification, may affect the accuracy and integrity of the sequencing data. “
The field has now matured to the level of high-throughput sequencing (HTS), with Oxford Nanopore and PacBio’s (SMRT) single-molecule real-time sequencing technology (SMRT) now the major TGS (third generation sequencing) platforms, according to the researchers.
In the past several years, this new technique has begun to yield significant results in the field of traditional Chinese medicine, which the authors of this study refer to as Chinese herbal medicine (CHM). The field is now open to what the researchers have indicated “Functional mining of genes.”
“HTS study of secondary metabolites accelerates biosynthesis in medicinal plants, indirectly expanding the global commercial market for herbal products,” They wrote.
“HTS study of secondary metabolites accelerates biosynthesis in medicinal plants, indirectly expanding the global commercial market for herbal products,” The researchers added. These metabolites include flavonoids, terpenoids, alkaloids, phenylpropanoids, quinones, and tannins.
Apply the results to the conditions
By drilling down to the level of individual molecules, the researchers said the effects can be more precisely articulated for a variety of conditions. Because many CHM studies have disease endpoints (as opposed to herbal studies done in the West to support dietary supplement products), researchers looked at outcomes for rheumatism, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and others.
The researchers said the future looks bright for joint applications of these technologies in this field.
Regarding future practical applications, on the one hand, the combination of second and third generation sequencing technologies takes full advantage of the strengths of each, such as long read length, high throughput and acceptable sequencing costs. On the other hand, the single-cell sequencing technology has great application prospects in mining the active ingredients of traditional Chinese medicinal herbs.”
A new era in biostimulant research and marketing
The new technologies described in the paper could open the door to a new era in the discovery and commercialization of plant biomaterials, said Stefan Gavner, chief science officer of the American Botanical Council.
“The paper suggests that these new mechanistic capabilities can be used in genome extraction,” which means finding the genome sequences that encode enzymes that make important secondary metabolites. If these genomes can be identified, the production of related proteins (plant metabolites, for example, caffeine or menthol, are synthesized in the plant by enzymes that bind smaller molecules together in what is known as the biosynthesis pathway) and the productivity of pharmacologically active compounds can be enhanced, ” Gavner told NutraIngredients-USA.
“This approach has been successfully implemented in many microorganisms, either to enhance the production of compounds (often used in the production of antibiotics), or to make new chemicals. It remains to be seen how easily this idea can be transferred to the production of secondary metabolites in plants,” Gavner said.
He added that this approach could also be used to answer some outstanding questions, such as whether ginkgo leaves actually produce isoflavonoids such as genistein, or if the presence of these molecules is a sign of cheating.
“Deciphering the entire ginkgo genome and its biosynthetic pathways may be the best way to answer this question,”He said.
source: Frontiers in plant sciences
Application of high-throughput sequencing to Chinese herbal medicine to extract data from bioactive compounds
Authors: Liu X, et al.