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Evidence-Based Study
October 19, 2005
Contact: Sharon Boston
Ellen Beth Levitt 410-328-8919

UM RESEARCHERS RECEIVE $10 MILLION TO STUDY TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE Researchers from the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine have received two grants totaling $10 million from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a component of the National Institutes of Health, to study the effectiveness and the mechanisms of action of traditional Chinese medicine such as herbal therapies and acupuncture.

"For centuries, millions of people have used the treatments of traditional Chinese medicine for all kinds of ailments. Now we have the opportunity to apply Western scientific standards to see if these therapies really help people and, if so, why," says Brian Berman, M.D., director of the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine at Kernan Hospital and a professor of family medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The first grant establishes a Center of Excellence for Arthritis and Traditional Chinese Medicine Research at the University of Maryland. With the nearly $6 million award, researchers will conduct a clinical trial on an 11-herb Chinese formula known as HLXL to see if it can help patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.

Another part of the arthritis research will look at how acupuncture affects the pain response in the body. This study builds off the center's previous research, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in December 2004, which found acupuncture to be a safe and effective complementary therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee.

Dr. Berman says, "The acupuncture and osteoarthritis study followed 570 patients, and we found significant difference in the pain response for people receiving acupuncture compared to those who received a sham acupuncture treatment. Now we want to know why that is, which may help us to explain the physiological mechanism involved in acupuncture."

The second grant, for almost $4 million, establishes an International Center for Research on Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The University of Maryland will lead a team of international investigators to look at traditional Chinese medicine for treating functional bowel disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome. The partner institutions for this center are Chinese University, Hong Kong; University of Illinois, Chicago; and University of Western Sydney, Australia. This new collaborative group will conduct multidisciplinary research on acupuncture and a traditional Chinese herbal preparation for irritable bowel syndrome.

According to NCCAM, the recipients of these international center grants will carry out research on complementary medicine and traditional medicine practices in the countries where the practices originated. The partnerships between researchers in the United States and foreign institutions will address whether the traditional practices can aid in health care locally and globally.

The two NCCAM grants to the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine are among five recent grants NCCAM has awarded as it expands its Research Center Program. Among them are the first international centers funded by NCCAM. "We are excited by the addition of these centers to our research program and the unique collaborations and approaches they bring to the studies of complementary and alternative practices," says Stephen E. Straus, M.D., NCCAM director.

Dr. Berman adds, "These grants allow us to continue our mission to bring evidence-based investigation to the study of ancient therapies. We are pleased to be working with NCCAM to increase understanding into the potential benefits and underlying mechanisms of complementary therapies."

Founded in 1991, the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, a part of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, has been a leader in applying rigorous science to the study of complementary medicine. Research includes investigations into many complementary and alternative therapies including acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, yoga and herbs for conditions ranging from arthritis to cancer.

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