Nature, Yes Nature, Publishes Tooth Fairy Science.

Nature, Yes Nature, Publishes Tooth Fairy Science.

"Tooth Fairy science" is an expression coined by Harriet Hall, M.D. to refer to doing research on a phenomenon before establishing that the phenomenon exists.

You could measure how much money the Tooth Fairy leaves under the pillow, whether she leaves more cash for the first or last tooth, whether the payoff is greater if you leave the tooth in a plastic baggie versus wrapped in Kleenex. You can get all kinds of good data that is reproducible and statistically significant. Yes, you have learned something. But you haven't learned what you think you've learned, because you haven't bothered to establish whether the Tooth Fairy really exists.

Proponents of Traditional Chinese Pseudo-Medicine (TCPM) love to apply advanced technologies to their interventions in an attempt to validate it. There is yet another example: With To Unveil the Molecular Mechanisms of Qi and Blood through Systems Biology-Based Investigation into Si-Jun-Zi-Tang and Si-Wu-Tang formulae, published in Nature. Yes Nature, that Nature, one of the premier science journals, delves into tooth fairy science.

The paper is not unlike Donald Trump at a debate, filled with confusion and statements of questionable veracity.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), being an effective treatment system,

Nope. As has been noted at length here and elsewhere, virtually no component of TCPM has efficacy.

The abstract and subjective theories like Yin-Yang and QI-Blood theories are still the main obstacle for application of TCM worldwide.

Not abstract and subjective, but totally divorced from known physiology and anatomy. The major obstacle to application is TCPM is that it is based on fictions.

Actually, Qi deficiency and blood deficiency have characteristic clinical manifestations.

Actually it is based on tongue and pulse analysis which, again, is divorced from anatomy and physiology and has no correlation with real disease processes. Although TCPM keep trying to shoehorn their fictions into reality based diagnosis and treatment.

The fact that TCMP is nonsense at it's core doesn't stop them.

Their hypothesis: take two (of thousands) of TCPm herbal concoctions: SJZT used for treating qi deficiency and SWT used for blood deficiency.

Why those two? Because they have used for

1,000 years to effectively rectify Qi deficiency and blood deficiency.

And you know that how? How does one determine an imaginary disease diagnosed by imaginary methods has responded? And how do you know it has been the same formula used over all that time and distance? You don't. Pure garbage.

They start with the assumption is that there is something there to validate, just like a tooth fairy.

So they broke the nostrums into their component parts

SJZT consisting of Panax ginseng, Atractylodes macrocephala, Poria cocos and Radix Glycyrrhizae Preparata… SWT consisting of Rehmannia glutinosa, Angelica Sinensis, Ligusticum chuanxiong and Paeonia albiflora,

and then the chemicals of each herb were compared to databases looking for a relationship between the chemical constituents and the genes targeted by each chemical.

I have to admit it is kind of gibberish, or at least poorly defined,  by what they mean by 'gene targeted'.

The suggest that like real medicines that there is a disease, qi deficiency for which there are many compounds that acts on a different sites, presumably a protein, that has a surrogate, the gene targeted. I think.

For example, there is Poria cocos which has dozens of chemicals from ergotamine to choline to retinol to ethanol. Each has a gene or genes (some have multiple) it targets. Naphthalene targets ADRA2C, ADRA2B, ADRA2A, NPY2R. All of which can be looked up on GeneCards. ADRA2C is a gene that codes for the Adrenoceptor Alpha 2C, and you can read all about it here. So somewhere in some TCPM database or other there is information that suggests Poria cocos contains naphthalene that messes somehow with the Adrenoceptor Alpha 2C, or, in the parlance of this paper, targets the ADRA2C gene.

I hope I got that right.

Then they data mined the hell out of it looking for relationships.

Whether at the concentrations of the chemicals in these two concoctions is of any clinical significance is not known. It may contain, in one analysis, say rutin, whatever that is, but there is no way to know how often it is at therapeutic levels in the body to "target" the CTGF gene.

So the huge assumption is that there is a therapeutic effect of these chemicals at the dose given in these TCPM herbs. Even the authors note

the mechanisms of the pharmacological action of SWT and SJZT have not yet been clarified.

And after data mining the hell out of the information, they found clusters and associations. One example

The different pathway were all specific for SWT, including amphetamine addiction, colorectal cancer, choline metabolism in cancer, bladder cancer, hepatitis B, pancreatic cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, prostate cancer, chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis), cocaine addiction, chronic myeloid leukemia, HTLV-I infection, p53 signaling pathways and pathways in cancer.

and many more.

Just a more sophisticated example firing an arrow then drawing a target. Look, I hit a bullseye.

Their conclusion is further gibberish, discussing qi and blood as if these were real constructs.

Qi has functions of promoting substance metabolism and energy conversion, stimulating activity of organs, keeping blood circulating in vasculature, promoting human growth and development, maintaining normal temperature of human body, strengthening the ability of anti-infection, maintaining normal development of fetus in uterus and controlling the secretion and excretion of bile, sweat, urine, saliva, gastric and intestinal digestive juice.

And try to suggest that somehow the relationships found  validate blood and qi deficiency having reality as demonstrated potential physiologic processes that could be affected, assuming alleged potential pharmacologic effects of two herbal products.

It almost rivals the works of Milgrom. Almost.

The usual peer review for pseudo-medicine. Someone peered at it, said it 'peers to be ok. Publish.

In Nature.

Nature.

Wait. It's April 1st, right?

Nope.

Sigh

Mark it on your calendar. 28 September 2016. The day Nature died.

Points of Interest 10/01/2016
Points of Interest 09/29/16

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