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Using scientific techniques to investigate the claims of traditional medicine as practised in countries such as China and Japan can help sort effective treatments from unfounded superstitions — and perhaps give modern medicine a few insights into holistic approaches borne from thousands of years of herbal remedies.
The editor of Nature China reports on his first visit to a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner to find out how this ancient practice is dispensed in the twenty-first century — and to see if anything can be done to relieve his back pain.
Acupuncture can locally reduce pain, but it has remained unclear how it might work. Goldman et al. find that acupuncture elevates local tissue adenosine levels in a mouse model. The anti-nociceptive effect of acupuncture was absent in mice lacking the adenosine receptor A1.
Thalidomide, a drug reviled in the 1960s for its teratogenic effects, has been revived in recent years for cancer and leprosy therapy. A study now finds another use for this drug in vascular disease, providing further insights into the drug's mechanisms of action (pages 420–428).