Epigenomics and Ayugenomics
As more genomes have been sequenced and gene functions elucidated, the time has come to integrate immeasurably valuable sources of ancient medicinal knowledge with the rapidly evolving genomic paradigm. With the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2001, it was anticipated by some that the identification and characterization of gene targets could lead to deeper appreciation of the chemo-diversity in the Ayurvedic physician’s “medicine bag”. Others, including ourselves here at FHMR, however, fear that by reducing traditional medicine to their mere molecular targets the scientists could lose sight of the “big picture” while focusing on the details. And as such, inspired by the uncompromising holistic character of the traditional Ayurvedic medical systems, we propose to study herb-genetic interactions by applying a systems biology perspective. Dr. Gerson coined the terms “ayugenomics” and “ayuepigenomics” in 2002 to describe this newly emerging area of study. A global (i.e. holistic) understanding of molecular pathways would offer an appreciation of how the activity of individual components–by co-influencing each other– ultimately translates into the phenotypic response of a target cell, e.g. hormone production, neurotransmitter generation, tumor-suppression, etc.
Medicinal Plant Mechanism of Action Studies Utilizing Metabolomic Analysis
Metabolomics is the study of the entire array of metabolites produced by a biological cell,tissue, organ or organism, which are the final end products of genetic and cellular processes. The instruments generally required for metabolomics research include: Mass Spectrometer, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, High Performance Liquid Chromatography, and possibly Gas Chromatography.
Metabolomics studies fall into two broad categories, targeted and untargeted. Both are of significant value.
Targeted studies involve hypothesis-guided studies that quantify a specific subset of known metabolites relevant to a particular metabolic pathway.
Untargeted studies, by contrast, are usually hypothesis-creating studies that provide relative quantification of all detectable metabolites, with subsequent identification of the most active ones. Untargeted studies are extremely useful for elucidating the hitherto unknown mechanism of action of a plant medicines.
Health Claim Validation
Metabolomic analysis is in addition an excellent tool to validate or dismiss health claims made for specific herbal or food products. By defining and quantifying the direct effects of a food or herb on the entire metabolic pathway, we can support it as valid or invalid. For example, we can answer the question does the consumption of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera Dunal) reduce anxiety-associated neurotransmitters and if so by what metabolic pathway? Or does Mucuna pruriens (Linn), a plant medicine often used in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease, increase dopamine in the substantia nigra of the brain and if so by what metabolic pathway?
With the commercialism and marketing which has become the modus operandi throughout the worldwide medicinal herb industry, the need for scientific substantiation of health claims has become vital.
Panchakarma Therapy: Prevention, Optimizing Human Potential and Longevity
Panchakarma (“five actions”) is a several day to several week penta-biopurificatory treatment in a specifically designed sequence aimed at upregulating the removal of accumulated metabolic wastes and toxic substances from our cells, tissues, organs, and mind. It is renowned for its beneficial effects on overall health, longevity, and refinement of the mind.
In our fast-paced, stressful and toxic world, endogenous and exogenous physical and mental toxins accumulate causing deterioration in physiological and mental functioning. This eventually weakens our homeostatic mechanisms, which allow chronic, degenerative, and other as yet non-characterized diseases to develop. These can evolve into specific diseases, ultimately compromising an individual’s health.
Panchakarma is purported to greatly help by reversing these negative effects of daily living. In 2001, Scott Gerson, M.D. received his Ph.D. (Ayurveda) for his thesis: The Effect of Panchakarma Chikitsa on Hepatic Detoxification and Other Select Immune Parameters. Today Dr. Gerson is one of only a handful of Ayurvedic physicians who have earned a Ph.D. in the field of Panchakarma. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s experts and leading researchers in these therapies. However, many questions remain. As of this writing, very few other well-designed rigorous clinical trials with sufficient sample size and statistical power using the whole system approach precisely as prescribed have ever been conducted to evaluate this multi-dimensional treatment process. This is despite the fact that over the last two decades, we have seen an exponential rise in the number of “panchakarma clinics” opened throughout the world.
FMHR has collected a veritable wealth of raw preliminary data from over 25 years of administering Panchakarma therapies to over 2500 patients and has meticulously designed a definitive study to build on Dr. Gerson’s earlier work and deeply evaluate the reality and purported benefits of comprehensive Panchakarma therapies.