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Immune states: integrated views of immunity by combining traditional Chinese medicine and modern medicine

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Science China Press

Immune states: Integrated Views of Immunity by Combining Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern Medicine


Immune states: Integrated Views of Immunity by Combining Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern Medicine

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Credit: ©Science China Press

The immune system plays a pivotal role in defending against pathogens and maintaining homeostasis, with numerous cells and molecules collectively participating in immune defense and surveillance. It is also deeply involved in the pathogenesis of many diseases. This holistic view of the immunity aligns closely with the core theories of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which has been practiced for over two thousand years.

The Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor, a TCM classic compiled during the Western Han Dynasty (202 B.C. - 9 A.D.), has stated that “With sufficient Zheng Qi (healthy Qi, and Qi may be roughly defined as life energy/matter ) pathogenic factors will have no way to invade the body.” This concept of “Zheng Qi” parallels with the modern understanding of immunity. Immune cells and molecules act as messengers for communications between different tissues and organs, while also mediating damage in many diseases. This “double-edged-sword” nature of the immune system mirrors the TCM theory of Yin and Yang, where health is achieved through a balanced equilibrium, and imbalance of Yin and Yang leads to illness, highlighting the importance of immune regulation in health and diseases.

As the spectrum of diseases evolves and our understanding deepens, the incidence of chronic and non-communicable diseases, particularly metabolic and autoimmune diseases, is increasing. However, their etiology and pathological mechanisms remain largely unclear. TCM, with its holistic analysis and pattern-based treatments, is showing significant effects in clinical practice supported by increasing evidences.

In the 1980s, Dr. Xuesen Qian, a pioneer in systems engineering, described the human body as a complex, open system with its normal operation closely tied to immune regulation. Based on these statements, Professor Anlong Xu has proposed the novel concept of the “immune state” as the systems state dynamically changing within the human immune system over a certain period. Under disease conditions, the immune state indicates an abnormal or imbalanced functional state. This concept offers a new perspective on immunological diseases and their complex mechanisms, holding groundbreaking potential for treating diseases, particularly systems diseases.

More importantly, the study of immunological diseases should not only focus on etiology but also on the dynamic effects of the immune system, shifting from treating “the diseases in a person” to “the person with diseases”. In this context, Professor Xu proposes a novel strategy of immune state-based therapy. This approach integrates the concept of the immune state with the practical treatment of autoimmune diseases, targeting the immune system and seeking to restore the immune state to normality with integrated methods including pharmaceuticals, energy-based interventions, and information-driven techniques.

The concept of immune states provides a macroscopic and microscopic perspective for understanding complex immune mechanisms and guiding the treatment of immune diseases. Integrating TCM and Western medicine underscores the potential to re-understand immunity and develop innovative therapeutic strategies.


Immune states: Integrated Views of Immunity by Combining Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern Medicine


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