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Understanding ZHENG in traditional Chinese medicine in the context of neuro-endocrine-immune network

Understanding ZHENG in traditional Chinese medicine in the context of neuro-endocrine-immune network

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Traditional Chinese medicine uses ZHENG as the key pathological principle to understand the human homeostasis and guide the applications of Chinese herbs. Here, a systems biology approach with the combination of computational analysis and animal experiment is used to investigate this complex issue, ZHENG, in the context of the neuro-endocrine-immune (NEI) system. By using the methods of literature mining, network analysis and topological comparison, it is found that hormones are predominant in the Cold ZHENG network, immune factors are predominant in the Hot ZHENG network, and these two networks are connected by neuro-transmitters. In addition, genes related to Hot ZHENG-related diseases are mainly present in the cytokine–cytokine receptor interaction pathway, whereas genes related to both the Cold-related and Hot-related diseases are linked to the neuroactive ligand-receptor interaction pathway. These computational findings were subsequently verified by experiments on a rat model of collagen-induced arthritis, which indicate that the Cold ZHENG-oriented herbs tend to affect the hub nodes in the Cold ZHENG network, and the Hot ZHENG-oriented herbs tend to affect the hub nodes in the Hot ZHENG network. These investigations demonstrate that the thousand-year-old concept of ZHENG may have a molecular basis with NEI as background.

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