A review of Omics research in acupuncture: the relevance and future prospects for understanding the nature of meridians and acupoints

J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Apr 10;140(3):594-603. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.01.034. Epub 2012 Feb 1.


Relevance: Acupuncture is an intrinsic part of traditional Chinese medicine. The current understanding of the acupuncture meridian system, acupoints and the potential utilizing Omics technologies are summarized in this review.

Material and methods: A systematic search for acupuncture involving Omics technologies was carried out using multiple online literature databases. The records retrieved were from the full collections of each database dated to September 2011. Data produced from functional genomic technologies were extracted from the collected acupuncture/moxibustion studies and subjected to evaluation. Analyses and comments were summarized on the advances in experimental research in acupuncture/moxibustion-related studies, and the future for strategies and approaches in the era of functional genomics highlighted.

Results: An overview of articles indicated that several diseases or symptoms with evidence of effectiveness had been piloted for using functional genomic technologies, such as Parkinson's disease, allergic disorders, pain, and spinal cord injury, most of which are chronic "difficult diseases". High-throughput genomic and proteomic profiling of gene expression in tissues has been able to identify potential candidates for the effects of acupuncture and provide valuable information toward understanding the possible mechanisms of the therapy. However, without further holistic and sophisticated analyses in the context of metabolomics and systems biology, the current attempts and the foreseeable developments appear to be insufficient to produce firm conclusions. Noticeably, the recent rapid advances in functional molecular imaging targeting specific metabolites have shown great promise and if combined with other post-genomic technologies, could be extremely helpful for the acupuncture studies in human subjects.

Conclusion: This review suggest that disease-oriented studies using the approach of multi-indexed high-throughput technologies and systems biology analyses will be a preferred strategy for future acupuncture/moxibustion research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Points*
  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Forecasting
  • Gene Expression
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Meridians
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Precision Medicine
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • Research Design*
  • Systems Biology