Research by Dean of School of Chinese Medicine identifies common metabolic marker for different arthritic diseases

21 October 2013


The research team of Professor Lu Aiping, Dean of the School of Chinese Medicine, joined Professor Jia Wei’s research group from the University of Hawaii Cancer Center and Shanghai Jiaotong University, and Professor Xiao Lianbo’s team from the Guanghua Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine Hospital, in conducting research on arthritic disease based on “the same pattern in different diseases” theory in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Entitled “Serum Metabolic Signatures of Four Types of Human Arthritis”, the paper on the research result ( has been published in Journal of Proteome Research, a high-impact international journal in the field of proteomics. 

The study mainly explores the phenomena and mechanisms of “the same pattern in different diseases” in four common arthritis diseases – rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and gout. Blood samples from patients suffering from the four diseases were collected and analysed using metabolomics techniques. The results showed that a group of six metabolites could be used as a common metabolic marker for the four arthritic diseases. Moreover, energy metabolism was identified as the pathologic basis of arthritic diseases and joint injury. The researchers also identified specific metabolite profiles for each arthritic disease, which could be used as a basis for preliminary and accurate clinical diagnosis.

TCM diagnosis offers a way to categorise the “subtypes” of a disease. Professor Lu Aiping had previously carried out a systematic study on biomarkers and molecular networks in the cold and heat pattern of rheumatoid arthritis. This current study uses TCM’s “same pattern in different diseases” theory to explain the common characteristics of four arthritic diseases in terms of clinical symptoms and pattern differentiation. “Treating different diseases with same method” theory, corresponding to “the same pattern in different diseases” theory, means that different diseases can be treated with similar therapeutic methods. The study provides a biological scientific basis to support this TCM theory. Professor Lu said that metabolomics techniques could reflect the integrity and specificity of metabolic characteristics in clinical research. It is suitable for modern analytical study of the TCM concept of “pattern differentiation”, proving the accuracy of the concept and speeding up in-depth studies on modern medical diagnosis.

Professor Lu said: “Chinese medicine research has received more and more international attention. Scientific exploration of Chinese medicine can be conducted through metabolomics technologies, biomarker research and translational medical research, thereby enabling TCM diagnosis and treatment to gain more international recognition and effectively promoting the internationalisation of Chinese medicine”.


Professor Lu Aiping’s joint research project identifies common metabolic marker for different arthritic diseases