In this episode, Jacques and Irene travel to Beijing, China, to interview Dr. Chang Liu, the Deputy Director of the Center for Bioinformatics at the Institute of Medicinal Plant Development (IMPLAD), affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. Dr. Chang is applying genomic technologies to study the herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine to ensure the efficacy and safety of compounds derived from plants.
Traditional Chinese medicine provides a huge, untapped resource of potentially effective and safe therapeutics that have been used in humans for thousands of years. In China alone, the use of traditional herbs for both therapeutic and cooking uses is estimated at $250 billion in annual sales. Furthermore, some modern medicines have their origin in traditional medicine, such as artemisinin-based therapies, which are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the treatment of malaria.
In the latest Adventures in Genomics, we learn how whole genome sequencing enables researchers to obtain the complete chloroplast genome sequence to help distinguish closely related plant species that have previously been difficult to identify in traditional Chinese medicine.