Clinic Director Hugh MacPherson

Clinic Director Hugh MacPherson and his academic colleagues have recently published a paper about how insights gleaned from acupuncture research have informed biomedical research, practice and policy. (Biomedicine is clinical medicine based on the principles of the natural sciences such as biology and biochemistry.)

They explain: “Within the history of medicine, there are examples of scientific discoveries that emerged from unrelated or marginally related research. Such events often result from cross-fertilization of ideas… New ideas also arise when research efforts to target specific questions reveal unexpected findings.”  For example, acupuncturists have worked with neuroimaging, which has broadened the understanding and treatment of chronic pain. Also, two medical devices now in widespread use were inspired by acupuncture: anti-nausea wrist bands and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units for pain control.

Here is a section of the paper which explains the overall findings. If you’d like to know more, the full article is available online.

“This paper documents how ripple effects of acupuncture research have travelled beyond the field of acupuncture to affect several aspects of biomedicine. Specifically, acupuncture research has (1) expanded scientific and clinical knowledge in the fields of chronic pain, connective tissue, and placebo effects; (2) spawned the design of novel medical devices, which have increased treatment options in the areas of pain control and nausea suppression; and (3) furthered the development of research methods through the design and implementation of pragmatic clinical trials for chronic pain. Few are aware of the origins and pathways of these developments because they are now sufficiently integrated within the knowledge base and practice of biomedicine. The paper concludes by proposing that these exemplars provide evidence that acupuncture research has broadened biomedical understanding with regard to research, practice, and policy, as well as strengthening the case for continued support of basic and clinical research evaluating acupuncture and other under-researched therapies.”


“Unanticipated Insights into Biomedicine from the Study of Acupuncture”. Hugh MacPherson, PhD; Richard Hammerschlag, PhD; Remy R. Coeytaux, MD, PhD; Robert T. Davis, MS; Richard E. Harris, PhD; Jiang-Ti Kong, MD; Helene M. Langevin, MD; Lixing Lao, PhD; Ryan J. Milley, MAcOM; Vitaly Napadow, PhD; Rosa N. Schnyer, DAOM; Elisabet Stener-Victorin, PhD; Claudia M. Witt, MD, MBA; and Peter M. Wayne, PhD. THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE Volume 22, Number 2, 2016, pp. 101–107. Full text available online.