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ThaoNguyen Nguyen
ThaoNguyen Nguyen

1: Myth

Historically the West has had a rather sceptical view on Eastern remedies derived from TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), despite its popularity in Asia. Many Western “mainstream” scientists still view TCM physicians as makers and drinkers of strange concoctions in the backstreets of Chinatowns.
But could such a discipline that has been passed from generation to generation for over 2000 years of civilisation be made up entirely of myths?

2: A 2000 year-old Chinese fever treatment

More than 2000 years ago, Artemisia annua  (aka. wormwood) had been used to suppress fever by herbalists in ancient China.  The plant was first recorded as a medicine in 200 BC in  the ancient Chinese medical text of “Recipes for Fifty-Two Ailments”, found in Han Dynasty tombs.

The earliest evidence of Artemisia annua’s effectiveness in treating malaria dated back to 340 CE. Ge Hong of the East Jin Dynasty recorded in the Manual of Clinical Practice and Emergency Remedies that drinking the juice extracted from Artemisia  suppressed the symptoms of malaria.

3: From Chinese ancient Myth to antimalarial Miracle – the discovery of Artemisinin

After screening over 2000 ChinesE remedies for 5 years, in 1972 Tu Youyou from the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine successfully extracted Artemisinin from Artemisia annua in a secret drug discovery Project 523,commissioned by Mao Zedong.

Artemisinin’s unique structure of sesquiterpene lactone with peroxide bridge is thought to be responsible for the production of oxygen radicals that destroys the  malarial parasite. It had been proven to be effective in treating  malaria on mice and monkeys.

To help fast track their discovery to  drug production, Tu and her colleagues bravely volunteered to try the  medicine on themselves first, after which Artemisinin was tested in clinical trials  and passed. 

Since 1994 Norvatis has partnered with Chinese companies to develop Artemether, a methyl derivative of Artemisinin for antimalarial treatment in combination with Lumefantrine.
For her groundbreaking discovery and achievement, Tu was presented with the 2011 Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, the most prestigious Clinical Research Accolade, often
nicknamed  the “America’s Nobel Prize”. Had it not been for Prof. Tu and  her colleagues’ relentless determination and perseverance, millions of lives around the world would have been lost to malaria.  And yet for such a noble contribution to mankind, Prof. Tu’s humbleness in choosing to credit
Chinese traditional medicine, instead of her own remarkable personal achievement ,truly inspires all scientists of the present and future.