Western medical science had typically discounted the TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine, theory of acupuncture meridians because they could not find physical evidence of such channels. It turns out they were just not looking in the right places. Such long sought evidence is now beginning to pile up.
Dissection studies have found physical structures that closely follow the meridians. These structures consist of veins, nerves, connective tissue and muscles. But through dissection they couldn’t find evidence of a substance that followed such disconnected paths. This was because during dissection the samples are typically desiccated and the fluid channels collapse.
Now newer in vivo techniques have led to the discovery of the Interstitium, a fluid filled network that carries up to 20% of the body’s fluids. The Interstitium includes the fascia below the skin and enclosing all major organs. The Interstitium envelopes the entire human body in a vast fluid filled network. While blood can only flow along arteries, veins and capillaries, and nerve impulses can only flow along nerves, the Interstitial fluid can flow across all areas of the body and follow channels that span disparate isolated systems, through the newly discovered Interstitium.
And now, Fluorescent dye and electrical impedance studies clearly show the meridians so that they may be seen and measured, right where TCM and Taoist Qigong has always claimed they were.
Visualization of the Pericardium Meridian with Fluorescent Dyes
The anatomical basis of acupuncture meridians continues to be enigmatic. Although much attention has been placed on potential correlations with inter/intramuscular fascia or lower electrical impedance, animal studies performed in the past 40 years have shown that tracer dyes—specifically Tc-99m pertechnetate—injected at strategic skin points generate linear migrations closely aligning with acupuncture meridians. To evaluate whether this phenomenon is also observable in humans, we injected two fluorescent dyes—fluorescein sodium and indocyanine green (ICG)—into the dermal layer both at acupuncture points (PC5, PC6, and PC7) and a nonacupoint control. Fifteen healthy volunteers were enrolled in this study. Of the 19 trials of fluorescein injected at PC6, 15 (79%) were associated with slow diffusion of the dye proximally along a path matching closely with the pericardium meridian. Furthermore, the dye emerged and coalesced proximally at exactly acupoint PC3. Injections of ICG at the acupoints PC5, PC6, or PC7 showed a similar trajectory close to the injection site but diverged when migrating proximally, failing converge on acupoint PC3. Injections of either dye at an adjacent PC6-control did not generate any notable linear pathway. Both ultrasound imaging and vein-locating device did not reveal any corresponding vessels (arterial or venous) at the visualized tracer pathway but did demonstrate correlations with intermuscular fascia.— Visualization of the Pericardium Meridian with Fluorescent Dyes
Similar Related Studies of Dye Transmission and Electrical Impedance
- Perivascular Space: Possible Anatomical Substrate for the Meridian
- Electrical impedance along connective tissue planes associated with acupuncture meridians
- Characterisation of human skin impedance at acupuncture point PC4 Ximen and pericardium meridian using the four-electrode method
- Electrical impedance of acupuncture meridians: the relevance of subcutaneous collagenous bands
- Effects of nitric oxide and noradrenergic function on skin electric resistance of acupoints and meridians
Scientists Discovered a “New” Organ, the Interstitium, a Fluid Filled Network which may Provide the Physical Foundation for the Ancient Chinese Meridians
New in vivo methods have allowed medical scientists to discover a “new” organ, the Interstitium, a fluid filled network that carries up to 20% of the body’s fluids. The flow of fluids through the Interstitium may explain how cancer cells can migrate through the body and it may also provide the anatomical foundation of the TCM/Qigong meridians.
Meet Your Interstitium, A Newfound ‘Organ’
With all that’s known about human anatomy, you wouldn’t expect doctors to discover a new body part in this day and age. But now, researchers say they’ve done just that: They’ve found a network of fluid-filled spaces in tissue that hadn’t been seen before.
These fluid-filled spaces were discovered in connective tissues all over the body, including below the skin’s surface; lining the digestive tract, lungs and urinary systems; and surrounding muscles, according to a new study detailing the findings, published today (March 27) in the journal Scientific Reports (opens in new tab).
Previously, researchers had thought these tissue layers were a dense “wall” of collagen — a strong structural protein found in connective tissue. But the new finding reveals that, rather than a “wall,” this tissue is more like an “open, fluid-filled highway,” said co-senior study author Dr. Neil Theise, a professor of pathology at New York University Langone School of Medicine. The tissue contains interconnected, fluid-filled spaces that are supported by a lattice of thick collagen “bundles,” Theise said.— Rachael Rettner, LiveScience.com, Meet Your Interstitium, A Newfound ‘Organ’
Is the Newly Described Interstitial Network the Anatomical Basis of Acupuncture Meridians?
Traditional Chinese medicine relies heavily on intervention along lines running across the body, known as meridians. The crossing point between contemporary anatomy and the traditional Chinese views is the attempt to describe the morphological nature of the channels, through which the elusive Qi flows. To this moment, numerous studies have attempted to trace the anatomy of the meridians, but no conclusive data has been provided (Wang et al., 2010). The conflicting results can be cleared in the light of a recent finding. After Benias et al. (2018) described the existence of a previously unrecognized interstitial network in the loose connective tissue, we believe that an explanation of many poorly understood observations can be given (Fig. 1).— Is the Newly Described Interstitial Network the Anatomical Basis of Acupuncture Meridians?
Previous Related Studies
- Bonghan Circulatory System as an Extension of Acupuncture Meridians
- Primo Vascular System: A Unique Biological System Shifting a Medical Paradigm
Anatomical Evidence of Acupuncture Meridians in the Human Extracellular Matrix: Results from a Macroscopic and Microscopic Interdisciplinary Multicentre Study on Human Corpses
The following dissection study confirms anatomical pathways in the body matching acupuncture meridians. In light of the fluid carrying Interstitium, and the Primo Vascular System/ Bongham Circulatory System, such anatomical structures may indeed be the underlying anatomical foundation of Qigong meridians.
We suggest that not only fascia, especially the fascia corporis externa, but also deeper parts form the anatomical substrate of acupuncture meridians. In addition, parts of muscles, tendons, and ligaments follow the meridian course. Our observations build an anatomical basis for examining TCM principles and therapies, and it supports a holistic approach to diagnosis and treatment of diverse diseases.— Anatomical Evidence of Acupuncture Meridians in the Human Extracellular Matrix: Results from a Macroscopic and Microscopic Interdisciplinary Multicentre Study on Human Corpses
Mawangdui Medical Text Shows The Ancient Roots of Acupuncture Meridians Dive Deep Down Through Thousands of Years of Human History
In our earlier blog post, Oldest Surviving Anatomy Atlas Discovered in Mawangdui Tomb Details Physical Pathways Predating Acupuncture Meridians, we covered a previous study that used modern cadaver dissection to validate the meridians described in the oldest surviving anatomical atlas. The dissection study showed physical anatomical structures that matched the pathways through the body as described in the ancient text. These pathways were composed of veins, connective tissue, muscles and other structures. Modern science typically discounted such pathways because there was no known medium that flowed across divergent anatomical systems. However, when such dissection studies are considered along with studies, as described above, of the Interstitium, and the Primo Vascular System or Bongham Circulatory System, it becomes clear that fluids flow around the entire body and across just such disparate systems through the Interstitium.
In the main body of our results section, we take these detailed documents as the basis for our interpretation. Tables 1–11, and Figures 2–12-2–12, therefore act to unify and integrate the text, translation and anatomical structure. We name the physical structures that we have identified through dissection and anatomical examination as the most likely structures being described in the Mawangdui. These sections summarize our evaluation of the physical actuality of the meridians described. In the main text, we alternate between modern anatomical terminology and references to the translations. For clarity, the original Chinese terminology is given in italics and our translations of the texts are referred to in quotation marks. The translations are included where they are relevant to understanding the reasons for our interpretations.
The full article/paper goes through a whole series of meridians with translations, descriptions and corresponding dissection photos. The first Arm tai yang meridian is reproduced below.
TABLE 1. Arm tai yang
|Arm tai yang (ear vessel)
|Greater yang meridian of the arm, ear vessel—“it rises up from the little finger/back of hand, goes along the space on the outside of the two bones. It goes up the bone to the lower corner to the Centre of the elbow. It passes along the soft muscle ridge up to the shoulder, and passes along the back of the neck to join into the eye and the ear.”
|A. This is the most medial of the three yang meridians, and starts on the little finger. It passes along the arm on the extensor surface of the forearm as the basilic vein. B. It joins with the cephalic vein as the median cubital vein in the elbow, and continues along the edge of biceps brachii to the shoulder as the cephalic vein. C. It progresses up along the neck as the external jugular and branches to the eye and ear as the auriculotemporal vein.
SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE: Ötzi the Iceman’s Tattoos Reveal Clues About Possible Ancient Acupuncture Practices Some 5,300 Years Ago
While the Mawangdui Medical Text shows acupuncture meridians dating back over 2,000 years, an in depth study of the Iceman (Otzi) mummy shows evidence of possible acupuncture applications dating back much further, over 5,300 years. Otzi’s body was covered with 61 simple geometrical tattoos. Some of the tattoo locations closely correspond with acupuncture points which today would be used to tread conditions that he actually had, as confirmed by damage to his joints.
Previous studies of the Iceman’s tattoos have hypothesized that the lines and crosses etched into his skin offered therapeutic benefits rather than simply serving as decorative embellishments. As Ancient Origins’ April Holloway writes, the tattoos, which were created via small incisions traced with charcoal, align with “hard-working areas of the human body,” including the ankles, wrists, knees and lower back. These spots are commonly associated with acupuncture treatments, raising the possibility that Ötzi’s community knew of the practice some 2,000 years before it was believed to have first emerged in Asia.
Archaeologists initially mapped all of Ötzi’s 61 inkings in 2015, Carl Engelking reports for Discover magazine. Prior to this examination, researchers thought the Iceman’s tattoos numbered closer to 59. Multispectral imaging analysis revealed a set of previously unidentified tattoos clustered on the Iceman’s chest, an area commonly associated with acupuncture points targeting intestinal disorders.— Meilan Solly, Associate Editor, History, Smithsonian Magazine
THE LANCET: A medical report from the stone age?
The results are shown in the table. Expert opinions from three acupuncture societies 13 indicate that nine of the tattoos could be identified as being located directly on or within 6 mm of traditional acupuncture points. Two more tattoos are located on an acupuncture meridian but not close to a point. One tattoo is a local point. Three tattoos are situated between 6 mm and 13 mm from the closest acupuncture points. 14
Figure 3 illustrates some of our findings. The top part of figure 3 shows four tattoo groups on the left side and one on the right side of the dorsal spine. They are close to or lie directly over acupuncture-points of the urinary bladder-meridian. The bottom part of this figure shows one of the tattoo crosses, which is situated behind and above the left lateral malleolus, corresponding to the urinary-bladder 60 acupuncture point.
From radiological studies 17 the Iceman had moderate arthrosis in the hip joints, knee joints, ankle joints, and the lumbar spine. Tattoos situated near the affected areas are shown in the table. From our results we conclude that the tribe of the Iceman was familiar with a simple form of locus-dolendi acupuncture as proposed recently. 10— THE LANCET: A medical Report from the stone age?