Friday, November 21, 2008

Double Standard

I've recently gained slight notoriety at my medical school for writing an article critiquing a homeopathy presentation published in the campus newspaper. Here it is, with identifying details changed to protect the gullible: 

"On [date], [Homeopath] was sponsored by [alternative medicine group] to teach [school] students about homeopathy. Like a similar [alt med group] lecture a year ago, the presentation failed to address my concern that homeopathy is based on ancient superstitions rather than good evidence. [Homeopath] was charming and sincere, but despite his obvious skill as a pediatrician he seems to have fallen for a double standard. 

"[Homeopath] and I agree that the 200-year-old theory behind homeopathy is magical thinking that strains credulity, and we agree that homeopathy should never be used in place of evidence-based medicine We both sympathize with patients frustrated by modern medicine's lack of good drugs for many common complaints. We might see eye-to-eye on the ethically thorny issue of prescribing placebos for self-limiting or untreatable diseases, but that discussion is stymied by a crucial difference: [Homeopath] believes he utilizes the power of homeopathy when his patients reach the limits of EBM, whereas I suspect he is using placebo. He claims that the particular sugar pill he selects for a particular symptom has a specific effect, and this effect, despite being clinically significant, eludes confirmation by controlled evidence. 

"I asked [Homeopath] how he responds to physicians who conclude, given the lackluster evidence, that effects of homeopathy are fully explained by placebo. His answer revealed great trust in his personal experience and a bizarre insistence that no one can criticize a drug without using it first. ("You can't knock it until you've tried it" is a CAM favorite, as if experiencing a possible placebo effect makes a human more objective.) I countered that physicians-in-training rely on collective wisdom in the form of evidence-based guidelines; I do not need to personally prescribe thalidomide to a pregnant woman to know its danger. [Homeopath] responded with an anecdote that drove home the point: although he practices most of the time, he justifies homeopathic treatments with appeals to tradition and personal experience. 

"Why does [Homeopath] believe in homeopathy? He expresses incredulity that so many people could believe in it for so long if it were not effective, but the "old and popular" practices of bloodletting, racism, and astrology suggest that mass delusion is certainly plausible. He is comforted because FDA regulates the manufacture of homeopathic products, but of course "not contaminated with melamine" is a far cry from "proven safe and efficacious by Phase III clinic trials." He puts great faith in reports of patients whose symptoms improve after taking homeopathic drugs, but the primary rationale for using EBM is that such uncontrolled observations cannot distinguish correlation from causation. His anecdotes are rife with possible confounding effects, such as regression to the mean or concomitant EBM therapy, so how can we know? Randomized controlled trials are the appropriate way to evaluate such complex interventions. 

"Homeopaths often deny the power of RCTs to analyze homeopathy because homeopathy's mechanism is mysterious. The history of scientific medicine belies this excuse. Although the value of hygiene, for example, met resistance from physicians who relied on tradition and personal experience, incontrovertible data won the day even before the germ theory of infectious diseases was available to explain them. Similarly, the famous trial showing that lemons cure scurvy saved many lives before ascorbic acid and lysyl hydroxylase were identified. 

"[Homeopath]'s claim that RCTs are ineffective because different people respond differently to homeopathy is odd because this is true for many drugs, perhaps through genetic variation in target receptors or liver enzymes. Rather, RCTs are the solution to this problem; carefully controlled studies allow us to identify which groups respond best to which interventions even if we do not understand why (e.g., particular hypertension drugs for African Americans). If his "chronic reactional modes" have validity, then [Homeopath] can assign subjects into appropriate groups and thereby increase the power of a homeopathy study. 

"Homeopathy should not be adopted into modern medicine until it meets the same standards of science-based care as other disciplines. [Homeopath] neither showed nor referenced data for the specific efficacy of homeopathy, probably because only low-quality trials show positive effects. Given the implausible tenets of this pre-scientific philosophy, "placebo" is the null hypothesis and the burden of proof is on homeopaths. I celebrate the [alt med group] call for research into old and popular treatments, but such drugs should not be used on patients before good research shows them efficacious."

I wrote it to sound nicer and more charitable than I really feel, partly to avoid excessive nose-tweaking and partly because the speaker (and one of the organizers, whom I've seen in social settings several times) seems genuinely friendly and well-meaning. However, that doesn't excuse intellectual sloppiness in a medical university lecture hall.

10 comments:

livs said...

Hi,

You obviously feel very strongly that the only way to keep people healthy is through allopathic medications.

What a shame that you are limiting yourself in such a way. No one benefits from such a short sighted one - eyed view of the world.

Interestingly, studies have shown that less people die when doctors go on strike. Also, doctors don't tend to be very healthy themselves either.

There is room enough for everyone.
Any modality that has met professional standards for training their practitioners, has a code of practice and ethics, and a sound knowledge of the Anatomy and physiology of the human body should be able to provide people with their treatment of choice.

As with many adherents to "alternative" medicine I have personally experienced the benefits, with my severe chronic asthma having been successfully treated through Homeopathy. Years of allopthic medications couldn't seem to prevent the worsening progression of this illness.
However (according to you) because I have not undergone a placebo controlled double blind study, this invalidates my wellness as placebo.

Since big pharma cannot make a fortune out of CAM, studies are small and underfunded. Even so their IS a growing body of evidence that shows many positive results. However, people such as yourself will refuse to be convinced no matter what, unless you decide to truly open your mind and experience it for yourself. Nothing anyone says, or any amount of proof is likely to move you from your self appointed watch dog position.

Can D said...

I think that this guy was just trying to tick you off.

Fine evisceration.

Rogue Medic said...

It is sad that frauds, such as homeopath and livs, are able to influence medical students.

If there is no independently verifiable evidence to support a treatment, it should not be used. It does not matter if the treatment is allopathic or some alternative treatment. Allopathic medicine has many problems, but that does not mean that diving into the world of make believe is better.

Allopathic medicine continues to subject medications to scientific study. The research is not always well done, but research that cannot be repeated is eventually found out. Homeopaths do not subject their treatments to scientific study, because they know homeopathy is not a real treatment.

Homeopathic medicines are just magic memory water.

By preventing gullible people from receiving real treatment, they prevent healing, except for those with self-limiting conditions.

There is one miracle homeopaths perform. Homeopaths are able to use inert water to make people get sicker and to make some of them die.

Homeopaths kill.

stavros said...

livs says:

"Any modality that has met professional standards for training their practitioners, has a code of practice and ethics, and a sound knowledge of the Anatomy and physiology of the human body should be able to provide people with their treatment of choice."

WTF?!? He/She forgot the most fundamental thing of all: that the treatment of choice has to work!

Otherwise, I can professional train a number of prayer-deliverers who will also do crash courses on anatomy and physiology, devise an acceptable code of practice and ethics, and then start "treating" patients with prayer! Is this acceptable to you livs?

William said...

Oh you poor benighted fool, limiting yourself to treatment modalities for which there is actual evidence. Don't you see how much simpler and easier medicine would be if we removed this suffocating restriction? Think of how much less expensive medicine would become without requiring clinical trials to show safety and efficacy. Think of how much less money the government would have to spend on bureaucratic behemoths like the FDA. Mark my words, CAM therapies are the way out of both our health care and economic crises.

Nah, I'm just joshing. As a current scientist and a newly accepted med student, I hope whatever school I wind up at has more people like you and fewer people who's minds are so open their brains have fallen out.

Brett said...

> studies have shown that less people die when doctors go on strike.

This is eye-wateringly stupid.

Rogue Medic said...

Brett,

Let's not be unscientific about this.

Let's be fair.

Let's give livs a chance to back up her statement.

In the mean time, I agree. There is no reason to believe this claim. livs, show us the studies!

livs,

studies have shown that less people die when doctors go on strike.

Prove it. Show us the studies.

apgaylard said...

Congratulations on the post. Nicely done.

One of the problems, and I speak from a little experience, with putting up this type of post is putting up with commenters like livs.

So many fallacies. So many unsupported assertions.

"No one benefits from such a short sighted one - eyed view of the world. - Only true if the CAM modalities promoted worked. If they did good quality DBRCTs would show it. Where's the data? No one can is really helped by ineffective interventions.

"studies have shown that less people die when doctors go on strike" As Rogue Medic says -reference please!

"doctors don't tend to be very healthy themselves either" Could that be because they don't do for themselves what they know to be best? Or perhaps people with stressful jobs pay a price? This is personal 'lifestyle' choices being portrayed as a failing of medical care. Oh, and reference please!

"There is room enough for everyone" This is serious. It's not a matter of 'fair' shares for all, it's about helping people who are ill. There can only be room for the effective.

Stavros nicely dealt with liv try to dodge the key issue of efficacy.

"personally experienced the benefits" The clarion call of the CAM True Believers. No probelms with expectation effects, regression to the mean, Hawthorne effect, confirmation bias then?

"because I have not undergone a placebo controlled double blind study, this invalidates my wellness as placebo" Nothing invalidates people being well. Without good quality trials it is not possible to say that an intervention made the person well; or would do the same in the future or for others.

"Since big pharma cannot make a fortune out of CAM, studies are small and underfunded" It's all the fault of the Big Farmer. Boiron seem to do quite well out of homeopathy. Sometimes homeopaths boast about the size of their market. Vitamin pills (and other supplements) sell by the billion. Here in the UK we trip of nutritionists in the street (well, I exaggerate here). There is money in CAM. 'Big Quacka' could afford to spend some of their revenues on good quality research. That they don't tells its own story.

"Even so their IS a growing body of evidence that shows many positive results." References please. I've heard this comment many times. I've even spent time checking. I'm yet to find any substance, whether it's homeopathy, herbs or supplements.

"Nothing anyone says, or any amount of proof is likely to move you from your self appointed watch dog position." Lovely impication that you aren't allowed a negative view. Odd for someone who's not even offered any evidence to talk about proof.

Finally, allopathic a Hahnemannian pejorative for the medicine of his time. It's an irrelevant and misleading term. Another piece of empty rhetoric.

Sorry for rambling. I did enjoy the post. I would enjoy livs if they offered some evidence and reason instead of silly name calling.

livs said...

© The Author (2006). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved
The online version of this article has been published under an open access model. Users are entitled to use, reproduce, disseminate, or display the open access version of this article for non-commercial purposes provided that: the original authorship is properly and fully attributed; the Journal and Oxford University Press are attributed as the original place of publication with the correct citation details given; if an article is subsequently reproduced or disseminated not in its entirety but only in part or as a derivative work this must be clearly indicated. For commercial re-use, please contact journals.permissions@oxfordjournals.org Lecture Series

Immunology and Homeopathy. 2. Cells of the Immune System and Inflammation
Paolo Bellavite1, Anita Conforti2, Francesco Pontarollo1 and Riccardo Ortolani3

1Department of Scienze Morfologico-Biomediche, University of Verona Piazza L.A. Scuro, 37134 Verona, Italy, 2Department of Medicina e Sanità Pubblica, University of Verona Piazza L.A. Scuro, 37134 Verona, Italy, and 3Association for Integrative Medicine ‘Giovanni Scolaro’, University of Verona Piazza L.A. Scuro, 37134 Verona, Italy


Abstract
Top
Abstract
Introduction
Lymphocytes
Polymorphonuclear Granulocytes...
Fibroblasts, Osteoblasts and...
Discussion
References


Here we describe the results of some experimental laboratory studies aimed at verifying the efficacy of high dilutions of substances and of homeopathic medicines in models of inflammation and immunity. Studies carried out on basophils, lymphocytes, granulocytes and fibroblasts are reviewed. This approach may help to test under controlled conditions the main principles of homeopathy such as ‘similarity’ of drug action at the cellular level and the effects of dilution/dynamization on the drug activity. The current situation is that few and rather small groups are working on laboratory models for homeopathy. Regarding the interpretation of data in view of the simile principle, we observe that there are different levels of similarity and that the laboratory data give support to this principle, but have not yet yielded the ultimate answer to the action mechanism of homeopathy. Evidence of the biological activity in vitro of highly diluted-dynamized solutions is slowly accumulating, with some conflicting reports. It is our hope that this review of literature unknown to most people will give an original and useful insight into the ‘state-of-the-art’ of homeopathy, without final conclusions ‘for’ or ‘against’ this modality. This kind of uncertainty may be difficult to accept, but is conceivably the most open-minded position now.


Keywords: in vitro test – laboratory models – homeopathy – high-dilution – immune system – basophils – granulocytes – lymphocytes – similia principle


Introduction
Top
Abstract
Introduction
Lymphocytes
Polymorphonuclear Granulocytes...
Fibroblasts, Osteoblasts and...
Discussion
References


The reliability of homeopathic principles (similia, globality of cure and use of high dilutions of ‘natural’ medicines) and their possible scientific bases can be assessed using various theoretical and experimental approaches. In this contribution we analyze the experimental evidence on cells and laboratory systems. Our aim is not to justify the clinical use of homeopathic medicines but to present evidence showing that substances prepared according to the homeopathic method have some effects on the immune system and inflammation. This may be the first step for a re-evaluation of homeopathy as a worthwhile field for basic and clinical investigations.

We are perfectly aware that the classical experimental approach to immunology based on the laboratory, animal and clinical experiments, typical of academic medicine and the current international scientific literature, can help us to understand only some of the aspects of homeopathy. Even bearing in mind the limitations of this ‘reductionistic’ approach, we still believe that it can build some bridgeheads toward the construction of a united medicine. This is mainly because we are not so much seeking to ‘demonstrate’ a single mechanism of action, but to understand general ‘rules’ of physiology, pathology and pharmacology that are the same in different fields of biology and pharmacology, and that can also be applied to homeopathy.

Immunoallergology represents a bridge between homeopathy and modern medicine insofar as it is a field in which it is easier to apply concepts such as the effect of substances administered on the basis of the logic of the ‘similarity’ and the great sensitivity of living systems to modulations induced by ultra-low doses or high dilutions of natural or endogenous substances (1).

Below, we describe the principal results of experimental studies aimed at verifying the efficacy of homeopathic medicines or, more limitedly, at verifying the main principles of homeopathy (e.g. dilution, similarity) in models of inflammation and immunity. We begin with in vitro studies of inflammatory cells (basophils, neutrophils, lymphocytes, macrophages and fibroblasts), and, in a subsequent paper, we shall examine animal studies before describing clinical trials in humans. Many of these experiments and observations are normally ignored by the modern biomedical literature.

We have performed experiments in our laboratory and have monitored the literature on the subject of this paper for the past 15 years. Here the best of our knowledge of all experimental work published is reported, irrespective of results (e.g. positive or negative results, in favor or against to homeopathy). All literature available in Medline, conference proceedings and books was searched. Due to the relative scarcity of literature in this field and the heterogeneity of experiments, we have not performed pooling and meta-analysis of data. Where indicated, a few comments on reliability of findings and on problems of replication of specific studies have been provided.

Basophils/Mast Cells

One of the laboratory models in which the phenomena of similarity and of high-dilution effects have been most widely investigated is the regulation of basophils and mast cells, which are fundamental cells in acute inflammation. In fact, one of the first biological events in acute inflammation—and immediate hypersensitivity in the case of pathology—is activation of basophils/mast cells triggered by their binding to IgE antibodies bound to high-affinity receptors as a result of sensitization. Since this is the most investigated model of high-dilution effects, some technical details may help understanding the results.

Biology of Basophil Activation

In these cells, internal activation is driven not only by specific foreign substances such as allergens but also by the binding of antibodies (anti-IgE) against heavy chains of IgE, which are the receptors of antigens in these cells. The cell activation involves changes in membrane ion fluxes (particularly calcium ions), changes in cell membrane electrical polarity, and other mechanisms that eventually lead to exocytosis and the release of mediators (Fig. 1). It is known that one of the main mediators is histamine, which is produced by the decarboxylation of histidine, stored in granules of basophils and mast cells, and released a few seconds after activation. Histamine in tissues exert vasodilating and permeabilizing actions (and therefore causes the formation of wheals and edema).



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Figure 1 Normal activation of basophil degranulation caused by anti IgE antibodies. This activation is not only driven by specific allergens, but also by the binding of antibodies against IgE heavy chains (anti-IgE) and involves changes in membrane ion fluxes (particularly calcium ions), changes in cell membrane electrical polarity, and other mechanisms that eventually lead to exocytosis and the release of mediators. Cell activation is evaluated by optical microscopy as a loss of staining properties. To be precise, loss of staining properties is not exactly the same biological phenomenon as cell degranulation, but indicates a change of the granule membrane permeability. Another typical response to activation is the increased expression of CD63 proteins, which are translocated from internal pools to the cell surface. Insert: electron microscopy of a mast cell.




At the end of the 1980s, when the first published studies aroused considerable international controversy (2,3), there were two ways of evaluating the reactivity of basophils: the histamine release test, which measures histamine released by activated basophils into the extracellular environment, and the basophil ‘degranulation’ test, which analyzes changes in coloring of granules in presence of stains such as toluidine blue or alcian blue (metachromasia). In practice, a microscope count is made of the unstained (‘degranulated’) cells in relation to the total number of basophils (4) (Fig. 1). This is erroneously called a ‘degranulation’ test because metachromasia may occur at activator doses that are much lower than the threshold required to trigger degranulation (5). Metachromasia probably reflects biochemical changes (the exchange of cations) that alter the interaction of basic dyes with proteoglycans of granule. Although it is easy to establish a correlation between the two methods using strong stimuli, this is not true when weak stimuli or very low agonist doses are used: the activation of basophils without true degranulation (i.e. without histamine release) has been observed under many circumstances (6).

Early Studies

Experimental studies of this cell type have been carried out by two groups of French researchers (Sainte-Laudy with Belon and Poitevin with Aubin) using homeopathic dilutions of Apis mellifica and Lung histaminum. The choice of these compounds was probably due on their frequent use in the treatment of allergic syndromes (7) and partially on the known ability of some of their molecular components (mellitin and histamine, respectively) to activate basophils or to have regulatory feed-back effects on them. The studies were based on the hypothesis that, even in homeopathic dilutions, these substances can regulate basophils activated by ponderal doses of an active agent. The first publications describing the effect of these homeopathic dilutions on basophils (8,9) reported that the in vitro degranulation induced by various allergens (domestic dust, house mites) was stimulated (+20%) by low dilutions (5c) (centesimal and decimal homeopathic dilutions, or ‘potencies’ in homeopathic terms, are designed as ‘c’ and ‘x’, respectively.) of bee venom (Apis mellifica), whereas higher dilutions (9c and 15c) had an opposite effect (>50% inhibition). These effects were obtained by including the medicines in the incubation mixture and were statistically significant. The inhibition by Histaminum and Apis is particularly interesting because when released at normal doses into a tissue both histamine and bee venom have pro-inflammatory powers and irritant properties. This experiment therefore illustrates application of the principle of similarity in an experimental model: a substance known to stimulate inflammation at conventional doses can, at different doses, inhibit cells responsible for many of the phenomena of the inflammatory process.

Another group has unsuccessfully tried to repeat the same experiments (10), but the authors of the first study report that the same protocol was used by a third and independent laboratory upon the request of the French Academy of Medicine and that, in this case, all three dilutions of Apis mellifica (5c, 9c, 15c) had a statistically significant inhibitory effect (11).

In order to explore the question further, and with the support of the team of Benveniste (which at that time was still working at INSERM U200 in Paris), Poitevin carried out another series of ‘blind’ experiments using 1c–15c dilutions of Apis mellifica and Lung histaminum on basophils activated by anti-IgE antibodies (12) (Fig. 2). Lung histaminum is an extract of lung from laboratory animals where anaphylactic reactions are experimentally induced, so it presumably contains, at least in the starting material (mother tincture), histamine as a mediator. The dilution-effect curves of these products showed an alternation of inhibition, inactivity and stimulation with a unusual and complex trend: Apis significantly inhibited basophil activation at the dilutions of 8c, 9c and 10c when the basophils were activated with high and low anti-IgE doses, and caused significant inhibition also at the dilutions of 5c, 7c, 13c and 20c when the basophils were activated with low anti-IgE doses. With Lung histaminum, significant inhibitions were observed at dilutions of about 5c and about 15c (from 12c to 18c). In the case of basophils activated using small anti-IgE doses, Apis 10c and Lung histaminum 18c caused 100% inhibition.



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Figure 2 Inhibition of basophil degranulation by homeopathic dilutions of Apis mellifica and Lung histamine (8,11,12).




The Benveniste Affair

The famous multicenter study, led by J. Benveniste and involving four other laboratories, reported that human basophils undergo ‘degranulation’ (metachromasia) not only at usual anti-IgE antibody doses (10–3 mg/ml) but also at extremely high dilutions (1060 or 10120 times lower than the concentrations usually leading to a molecular interaction) (2) (Fig. 3). The dose–response curves at decreasing doses first showed the disappearance of activity and then its re-appearance followed by various peaks of alternating activity and inactivity up to extremely high dilutions corresponding to practically zero antibody concentrations. This type of a dose–response curve is also called ‘pseudo-sinusoidal’. In addition to anti-IgE antibodies, significant results were also obtained using high dilutions of substances such as calcium ionophores and phospholipase A2, known to have stimulatory effect at ponderal doses. The specificity of action was proved by the lack of effect of other highly diluted substances such as anti-IgG antibodies (basophils are only activated by anti-IgE antibodies) and phospholipase C, which have a different biochemical specificity on membranes (2). It is observed interesting to note that the high-dilution effect was observed only when the serial dilution was followed by strong succussion (‘dynamization’ in homeopathic terminology) of the solutions.



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Figure 3 The scheme of the study reporting that basophils undergo ‘degranulation’ (metachromasia) not only at usual anti-IgE antibody doses (10–3 mg/ml) but also at extremely high dilutions (1060 or 10120 times lower than the concentrations usually leading to a molecular interaction) (2). The dose–response curves of Anti-IgE (see insert) at increasing dilutions first showed the disappearance of activity and then its re-appearance followed by various peaks of alternating activity and inactivity up to extremely high dilutions.




The work of Benveniste's group was published in the authoritative scientific journal Nature and had considerable resonance as the presumed demonstration of the ‘memory of water’, but it was heavily criticized on theoretical grounds (the ‘incredibility’ of the data) and because of the difficulty in reproducing the results, as well as for methodological weaknesses (a sort of inspection of Benveniste's laboratory organized by Nature) (3,13,14).

The group subsequently repeated tests using more reliable methods and more complete evaluations made by expert statisticians, and confirmed many times the existence of an effect at high dilutions, although it was not so marked as that described in the first paper (15–18). These further experiments are not known by the general public, and possibly because they were published in less renowned journals or in conference proceedings they have not been welcomed by the scientific community.



As pointed out by Vecchi (22), in data of Table 2 from Hirst et al. (20), the probability that the successive high dilution behaves as the control solution is 0.0027 (Fischer P-value). This represents the probability of obtaining such experimental data by chance, under the assumption that there will be no difference between successive high dilutions and control treatments. In other words, the experimental data confirm within a 99.7% level of confidence that there is a difference between successive high dilutions and control treatments. The authors appear to recognize that their data are incompatible with the null hypothesis, i.e. with the assumption that there is no difference between potentized solutions and placebo (p. 527, right column): ‘According to conventional scientific theory, there should be no differences within a session between the control treatment and the eight high-dilution treatments. ... This is not the case ...’,

Inhibition by Pure Histamine

The group of Belon/Sainte-Laudy obtained the inhibition of basophil ‘degranulation’ (according to metachromasia) by using high dilutions of pure histamine (Fig. 4). If the initial concentration is known, the use of pure substances as the starting material makes it possible to determine the theoretical molar concentrations in the subsequent dilutions, which, in this case, are expressed as negative powers of 10. A first series of experiments led to two inhibitory peaks at dilutions with theoretical histamine concentrations of between 10–10 and 10–17 M and between 10–30 and 10–38 M (25). All of the experiments were carried out under blind conditions in the sense that the researcher did not know with which dilution s/he was working. A control experiment showed that dilutions of histidine (the carboxylated precursor of histamine) were inefficacious, thus confirming specificity of the molecular information and reducing the likelihood of laboratory artifacts.



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Figure 4 The effects of ultra-high dilutions of pure histamine on basophil activation, assessed by optical evaluation of granule staining (25–27).




The same group has reported further data confirming that high dilutions of histamine (pure histamine chloride) significantly inhibit the degranulation of basophils (sensitized by IgE antibodies against dermatophagoid) induced in vitro by dermatophagoid extracts (26). Using a series of 16 progressive one-hundredth dilutions (from 5c to 20c), the authors observed inhibitory activity at dilutions of about 7c and 18c. The addition of pharmacological doses of cimetidine (an antagonist of histamine H2 receptors) abolished effects of all of active dilutions. Adding of the histaminase enzyme (which destroys histamine) inhibited the effect of ponderal doses (6c and 7c) but not that of high dilutions (18c), thus indicating that the latter was not due to the histamine molecule but to other mechanisms. The authors therefore tend to believe that the action of high dilutions involves an effect of the solvent (water) on H2 receptors, although they do admit that it is paradoxical to think in terms of molecular biology when there are theoretically no molecules of the effector in some of the active dilutions tested. A further paper confirmed that the IgE activation of human basophils is greatly and significantly (P < 0.001) inhibited by histamine dilutions (27). In these experiments, the ‘degranulation’ of basophils was inhibited at theoretical histamine concentrations of 10–16, 10–18, 10–20, 10–22 and 10–36 M.

New Techniques: Role of CD Markers

As the results obtained with the ‘degranulation’ test have never been replicated using the histamine release test in vitro (probably because of the different sensitivity of the two methods in relation to the different stages of basophil activation), it was important to replicate them by means of the different test of flow cytometry (28). Basophil membranes express many proteins: adhesion molecules and high-affinity receptors for IgE, aggregated IgG, CD26, CD33, CD40, CD45 and CD63. The last one is particularly interesting because it is expressed on cytoplasmic granules and on the external membrane after activation, and can thus be used as a marker of the functional status of the cell and also for ex vivo allergological diagnoses (29). Flow cytometry has the further advantage of being objective because it does not rely on judgment of the observer, whereas the degranulation test requires a visual evaluation as to whether the cells are light or dark after staining.

This technique has been used to demonstrate that basophil activation by anti-IgE antibodies (Fig. 5), observed as an increased expression of CD63, is blocked by ‘conventional’ histamine doses of between 10–2 and 10–4 M, as well as by (theoretical) ultra-low doses of 10–22 and 10–34 M (30). The same authors have also demonstrated that the inhibition induced by very high histamine dilutions (theoretical dose of 10–30 to 10–34 M) is abolished by cimetidine, thus confirming the receptor specificity already reported by their previous data (31).



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Figure 5 The effects of ultra-high dilutions of pure histamine on basophil activation, assessed by flow-cytometric measurement of CD63 expression (24,30–34). Data reported in the insert are from Brown and Ennis (32).




Is the Phenomenon Reproducible?

Furthermore, similar results have been obtained by three of the four laboratories involved in a multicenter collaboration (24) and independently reproduced (32–34). Only one group was not able to confirm the previously reported effects of high histamine dilutions on basophil function (35). In seven independent experiments, basophils of the same human donor were incubated with diluted histamine (up to 10–34 M) or water controls and activated with anti-IgE antibodies. Basophil activation was determined by using bi-color flow cytometry. Experiments were blinded and performed with a randomized arrangement of solutions on microtiter plates. Histamine at the dilutions 10–2 M and 10–22 M was associated with a significant inhibition of basophil degranulation (P = 0.018) of 23.1 and 5.7%, respectively, if compared with control (‘diluted’ water treated in an identical manner). However, if all controls were pooled, only histamine 10–2 M had a significant effect. The authors suggest that minor variables of the experimental set up, such as the position of samples in different rows of the same laboratory microplate, can lead to significant differences of results if not properly controlled.

In conclusion, this experimental model, using the highly sensitive basophil, has been very fruitful, and can be considered particularly consolidated and credible. These data are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1 Summary of laboratory studies on basophils/mast cells





Lymphocytes
Top
Abstract
Introduction
Lymphocytes
Polymorphonuclear Granulocytes...
Fibroblasts, Osteoblasts and...
Discussion
References


Studies dating back several years have tested the in vitro effects of medium dilutions of plants used in homeopathic medicines on lymphocytes. Two particularly interesting studies report the effect of Phytolacca on lymphocyte proliferation, measured by means of 3H-thymidine incorporation (36,37). Phytolacca contains a glycoprotein (the mitogenic Pokeweed) that is known to induce lymphoblastic transformation in cultured B-lymphocytes. Phytolacca has also been empirically used in homeopathy for a long time (since before its in vitro immunological action was discovered) in order to treat numerous diseases involving lymphoadenopathies, such as infectious mononucleosis and otorhinolaryngoiatric viral disease (38). Phytolacca dilutions of 5c, 7c and 15c have no mitogenic effect on resting lymphocytes but on lymphocytes stimulated with ponderal doses of phytohemagglutinin they inhibit mitosis by 28–73%: one study using rabbit lymphocytes found that the 15c dilution had the greatest effect (36); another study using human lymphocytes found that the maximum effect was achieved by the 7c dilution (37). Once again, these experiments underline the concepts of biological tropism (according to which an ultra-diluted solution acts on the same target system as the undiluted substance) and ‘similarity’ as effect inversion (according to which the diluted solution inhibits the effects of original or a similar substance). Unfortunately, this line of research has not been expanded by further experimental studies.

In vitro studies may also help to characterize homeopathic medicines for their active principles, which are undoubtedly present in crude extracts (mother tinctures) and low dilutions. Arbor vitae (Thuja occidentalis L.) is a native European tree widely used in homeopathy and phytotherapy. A recent review has presented the phytochemistry properties of its essential oil (Thujone), its antiviral action and immunopharmacological potential, such as stimulatory and co-stimulatory effects on cytokines, antibody production, and activation of immunocompetent cells and macrophages. The in vitro effects have been observed using ponderal doses (low dilutions) of the plant extract and of its active principles (39).

Hormesis and Sensitization

Wagner's group (40) has tackled experimentally the problem of the effect at cell level (i.e. on leukocytes) of low doses of vegetable extracts used in homeopathy and, in addition, of unusual changes in effect observed in dose–response curves. Among the various studies made by this group, of particular interest are those reporting that relatively high concentrations (100 µg–10 ng/ml) of the naphthoquinones (plumbagin, alkannin and others) and cytostatic agents (vincristine, methotrexate and fluorouracil) inhibit lymphoblastic transformation and granulocyte phagocytosis, whereas low concentrations (10 pg–10 fg/ml) have a stimulatory effect: intermediate doses are ineffective. The authors suggested that a number of the antitumoral effects of vegetable extracts might be explained by this dose-related double-effect mechanism. This is an immunological example of U-shaped dose–response curves that have been described earlier in toxicology as the ‘Arndt-Schultz law’ (41,42) and then theoretically developed as the ‘hormesis’ effect (43–46). This phenomenon could be a possible mechanism underlying the inversion of drug effects, or paradoxical effects of drugs, that recalls the traditional ‘similarity’ principle of homeopathy. However, hormesis can explain only a few aspects of homeopathy (47–49).

A study of the action of successive substances on human lymphocytes stimulated with phytohemagglutinin (PHA) was conducted by a team in Bucharest (50). Human peripheral blood lymphocytes from healthy controls, immunodepressed patients presenting with chronic bacterial infections or neoplasias and allergic patients were stimulated in vitro with PHA in a culture medium supplemented or not with high dilutions (10–7, 10–15 or 10–30) of bee venom or phosphorus in tridistilled water. The most significant inhibition due to DNA incorporation was noted in lymphocytes from allergic patients cultivated in media supplemented with 10–30 dilutions in the presence of PHA. The cells from immunodepressed patients showed no significant inhibition at 10–30 dilution. According to the authors, these data suggest a possible effect of high dilutions on structures of cell membranes from sensitized subjects. In this case, the sensitization due to pathology would make the individual susceptible to the homeopathic dilution.

In vitro Testing of Complex Formulations

A complex homeopathic medicine (Engystol-N, composed of Vincetoxicum at dilutions 6x to 30x and of Sulfur at dilutions 4x to 10x) stimulates cytokine(s) production by T lymphocytes in whole blood (51). Culture media of T lymphocytes treated with 10–4 and 10–8 dilutions of Engystol-N show an inhibiting effect on superoxide anion generation by neutrophils. From these data it was concluded that the drug stimulates secretion of lymphokine(s) with an inhibiting action on superoxide anion generation by neutrophils that prevail over the direct stimulating effect, confirming and extending the suggested immunomodulatory ability of the drug.

A homeopathic complex medicine (‘Canova’) is used as an immune modulator (52). The formula is composed of 19x Thuya occidentalis, 18x Bryonia alba, 11x Aconitum napellus, 19x Arsenicum album and 18x Lachesis muta (Viperidae) venom, all extracted and diluted in 70% alcohol, in equal parts. Studies of its mechanism of action have shown that it stimulates the immune system by activating macrophages, but has no genotoxic properties in vitro on lymphocytes (53).

Traumeel S, a homeopathic formulation containing low potencies (4x to 12x) of Arnica montana and other plant extracts and minerals (Calendula officinalis, Hamamelis virginiana, Achillea millefolium, Atropa belladonna, Aconitum napellum, Hepar sulfuris, Symphytum, Mercurius solubilis, Bellis perennis, Chamomilla, Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purpurea, Hypericum) is widely used in humans to relieve trauma, inflammation and degenerative processes. However, little is known about its possible effects on the behavior of immune cells. The effects of Traumeel were examined in vitro on human T cells, monocytes and gut epithelial cells (54). Traumeel inhibited the secretion of IL-1beta, TNF-alpha and IL-8 secretion by 50–70% in both resting and activated cells (P < 0.01 for all cells). Interestingly, the effect appeared to be inversely dose-related: maximal inhibition was seen with dilutions of 10–3 to 10–6 of the medicine stock material. This finding suggests that Traumeel does not inhibit immune cell functions by exerting a toxic effect. Although additional studies are needed to clarify the mode of action of this homeopathic formulation (see also the studies on neutrophil granulocytes reported below), the in vitro results may offer a mechanism for its anti-inflammatory effects.

The main results on lymphocytes are summarized in Table 2.


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Table 2 Summary of laboratory studies on lymphocytes





Polymorphonuclear Granulocytes (Neutrophils)
Top
Abstract
Introduction
Lymphocytes
Polymorphonuclear Granulocytes...
Fibroblasts, Osteoblasts and...
Discussion
References


Among studies of possible regulatory effects of homeopathic dilutions on inflammation, mention must be made of those involving phagocytic cells and in particular polymorphonuclear leukocytes (neutrophil granulocytes). In this case, the tested substances were those used by homeopaths in situations of acute inflammation with a major polymorphonucleat component.

It has been reported (55) that 5c and 9c dilutions of Belladonna and Ferrum phosphoricum inhibit the production of free oxygen radicals (measured as chemiluminescence, i.e. release of light generated during metabolic reactions) by granulocytes stimulated by opsonized zymosan. The inhibition was highly significant and as much as 30–40%, approximately the same as that obtained using 10 µM of dexamethasone and 0.1 mM of indomethacin. The authors pointed out that there was a considerable difference in individual sensitivity to these drugs, and this problem of the different sensitivity of cells isolated from different subjects has also been highlighted by others (56) who have investigated the effect of Belladonna, Hepar sulfur, Pyrogenium, Silicea and Staphylococcinum on chemotaxis and obtained conflicting results.

It has also been reported (in a preliminary communication) that Bryonia 4c and 9c (family: Cucurbitaceae) had a stimulatory effect on oxidative metabolism of polymorphonuclear leukocytes, which may be both direct and indirect (increasing the response to chemotactic peptides) (57).

Our Investigations of Homeopathic Medicines In Vitro

Our own group has also investigated the effects of homeopathic medicines on inflammatory cells and has obtained significant results particularly in relation to low dilutions (58–63). We first explored the possible direct effect of homeopathic dilutions on cell systems by evaluating their in vitro effects on oxidative metabolism of cultured neutrophils activated by formylated peptides (60). Results of the first series of studies, based on analysis of multiple dilutions of a large series of compounds, can be summarized as follows: (i) Manganum phosphoricum 6x and 8x, Magnesium phosphoricum 6x and 8x, Sulphur 6x, Acidum citricum 3x and Acidum succinicum 3x and 4x have highly reproducible inhibitory effects on our in vitro assay system; ii) Acidum fumaricum and Acidum malicum (both at a dilution of 4x) have a slightly potentiating effect on oxidative metabolism; (iii) during the course of various experiments, Phosphorus and Magnesium phosphoricum often showed inhibitory effects even at very high dilutions (>15x), but these did not always appear at the same dilutions, thus making it difficult to analyze them statistically; however, by pooling all of the data concerning the effects of high phosphorus dilutions, it has been possible to identify a small (10–15%) but statistically significant inhibition of cell activation.

These results can be biochemically interpreted in many ways. First of all, they demonstrate that, at medium–high doses, the solutions have certain effects on blood cells. Furthermore, they seem to suggest that most of the tested remedies interfere with subtle cell most regulatory mechanisms known to be based on ion exchanges, phosphorylation processes and reduced oxidation. In normal cell most physiology, phosphorus, sulphur, magnesium, manganese, calcium and other elements play a major role in such mechanisms, and so it is particularly interesting that some homeopathic medicines can act at these levels of control.

We then carried out studies aimed at improving knowledge of the anti-inflammatory action of Traumeel S (61,62). Results showed a decrease in paw edema associated with the process of healing, which was more rapid in the treated rats (P < 0.05 after three and P < 0.01 after 5 h) than in controls treated with saline (0.9% NaCl) solvent. The effects of Traumeel S on two important cellular functions, namely superoxide anion production and human platelet adhesion, were tested. This medicine did not affect either of these cellular functions, suggesting that its anti-inflammatory effects are not due to granulocyte and platelet inhibition. These findings also suggest that the antimicrobial functions of immune cells such as granulocytes are not disrupted by Traumeel S.

Human blood neutrophilic granulocytes (neutrophils) treated with low dilutions (4x) of a homeopathic drug extract (Podophyllum peltatum) had specific stimulating effects on their metabolic responses: an enhanced oxidative response to a subsequent challenge with bacterial formyl-peptides (63) (Fig. 6). This priming effect was related to superoxide anion (O2–) release (respiratory burst) and was quantitatively similar to the priming of the effect of TNF-. The phenomenon was observed with a homoeopathic preparation containing, among other things, podophyllum extract (Podophyllum compositum) and a 4x homeopathic dilution of Podophyllum (the final concentration of the active principle was about 0.025 µg/ml), whereas no enhancement of O2– release was caused by homoeopathic Podophyllum 12x or the other components contained in the complex homoeopathic preparation. Purified podophyllotoxin caused the same effect at doses of 0.1–10 µg/ml, whereas doses of more than 100 µg/ml inhibited the respiratory burst so that pure toxin showed a typical bi-phasic dose–response curve.



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Figure 6 Dual effects of Podophyllum and podophyllotoxin on the human neutrophil metabolism according to the dose (63). For explanation see text.




Similar effects were obtained with purified colchicine (1–1000 µg/ml), a microtubule-disrupting agent. No priming by any Podophyllum-derived compound was observed on neutrophils stimulated with 50 ng/ml phorbol ester (PMA). Furthermore, both homeopathic podophyllum-derived compounds and pure podophyllotoxin inhibited cell adhesion to the serum-coated surface of culture microplates. These results show that low dilutions of a homeopathic drug extract have stimulant-specific effects on the activation of neutrophil metabolism. Interest in this drug also comes from the fact that much higher doses of podophyllotoxin are used by conventional pharmacology to inhibit cell proliferation and these doses appear to be efficacious against condilomata of the skin. Priming doses are those contained in the homeopathic preparation; toxic doses are those contained in the allopathic preparation.

Electromagnetic Regulation

A paper dealing with regulation of neutrophil metabolism, published by the group of Benveniste (64), contains apparently ‘incredible’ data that, if confirmed, may have relevance for the interpretation of homeopathic phenomena. The authors claimed to have electronically transferred the information of a potent leukocyte activator (PMA: 4-phorbol-12-beta-myristate-13-acetate, the active ingredient of croton oil) to a cell suspension contained in a test tube placed in contact with a solenoid crossed by an electrical current. In brief, a suspension of neutrophils was positioned at a temperature of 37°C inside a solenoid connected to an oscillator that was also connected to another solenoid containing a solution of PMA. The oscillator was operated for 15 min, after which neutrophil activation was recorded by measuring the release of radical species for a further 45 min. Cell activation occurred only when the oscillator was operating and not when it was switched off. As a control, no cell activation occurred when, instead of PMA, the other solenoid contained its inactive analogue 4-alpha-phorbol 12,13-didecanoate. The authors interpreted this by hypothesizing that PMA emits a specific signal that can be electronically transmitted to neutrophils without any chemical contact. It is clear that if these results are confirmed they would strongly support the existence of ‘meta-molecular’ modulations in living systems and open up an extremely fascinating field of research.

In studies not related to homeopathy, it has been shown that the adenosine receptors of neutrophils (65), and a number of biochemical functions (66) are sensitive to externally applied periodically pulsed weak magnetic fields, in the case of neutrophil metabolism when the pulses are matched in frequency to the metabolic oscillations. These observations and the subtle entanglement among different systems such as homeopathy and acupuncture (67) suggest that high dilutions of biologically active substances may affect, also through biophysical pathways, the signaling and transcriptional levels of cellular homeostasis.

The main results on granulocytes are summarized in Table 3.


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Table 3 Summary of laboratory studies on granulocytes





Fibroblasts, Osteoblasts and Other Enzyme Studies
Top
Abstract
Introduction
Lymphocytes
Polymorphonuclear Granulocytes...
Fibroblasts, Osteoblasts and...
Discussion
References


Some in vitro tests have used a model of cytotoxicity in order to investigate whether homeopathic dilutions of toxic substances (mainly those having cytotoxic properties when used at high doses) may have protective effects on cell cultures of connective tissue cells involved in reparation processes. Boiron's group (68) reported that minimal doses (5c) of mercuric chloride (HgCl2) protect fibroblast cultures from intoxication by high doses of mercury. The parameter studied was the mitotic index. This model is obviously based on the hypothesis of the inverse or paradoxical effects of dose variations. Others (69) have observed a cytotoxic effect of HgCl2 on cultured mouse lymphocytes at doses ranging from 10–5 to 10–7 M, whereas a growth inhibiting effect without cytotoxicity was observed at doses ranging from 10–16 to 10–17 M. However, this effect was not found by another group studying the action of dilutions ranging from 10–10 to 10–18 M using the same model (70).

More recently, it has been reported that osteogenesis in vitro in rat tibia-derived osteoblasts is promoted by a homeopathic preparation (FMS-Calciumfluor) containing ultra-low doses of calcium fluoride associated with calcium monophosphate (71,72). Alkaline phosphatase, an indicator of osteoblast maturation, and the incorporation of radiolabelled Ca into the matrix were increased as compared with untreated control cultures. The effects of the homeopathic drug were concentration dependent and specific for its modalities of preparation and were observed at a concentration about three orders of magnitude lower than similar effects reported in the literature by treatment of osteoblast cultures in vitro with NaF.

In order to elucidate potential action mechanisms of an anti-inflammatory homeopathic complex (Zeel comp. N) and of its constituents, inhibition of synthesis of leukotriene B4 and prostaglandin by 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX) and cyclo-oxygenase 1 and 2 (COX 1 and 2), respectively, were examined in vitro (73). A reconstituted Zeel comp. N combination as well as its constituent mother tinctures of Arnica montana, Sanguinaria canadensis and Rhus toxicodendron (Toxicodendron quercifolium) showed distinct inhibitory effects on the 5-LOX and on the COX 1 and COX 2 enzymes. The effects were observed using low doses of these compounds, in the range of micrograms of original mother tincture.


Discussion
Top
Abstract
Introduction
Lymphocytes
Polymorphonuclear Granulocytes...
Fibroblasts, Osteoblasts and...
Discussion
References


Laboratory studies of cells and especially of leukocytes represent a fertile field in which homeopathic and conventional researchers have worked together. The well-established methods used in modern immunology and cell biology have been adopted for testing the in vitro effects of commercially available homeopathic drugs or of active principles diluted according to the traditional homeopathic methods. Moreover, the similar principle has been exploited also in reductionistic models based on different responses of inflammatory cells on changing the experimental conditions.



Methodological Issues

The mast cell/basophil degranulation studies should be focused on more actively by other laboratories, because this appears to be the most sensitive model, and if many other replication studies are carried out we could more easily discover possible artifacts and/or mechanisms of action. At this stage of research, pooling and meta-analysis could be performed only if the database in scarcely investigated areas (e.g. research in lymphocyte biology, neutrophil metabolism) is increased and implemented with more consistent results.

A specific methodological issue that should be better investigated considers methods of dilution and of succussion (dynamization). These methods are well known and are described in the homeopathic pharmacopoeias, but in the scientific literature high-dilution effects of non-homeopathic substances often are not reported with suitable detail to allow easy replication.

The discussion regarding reproducibility in homeopathic research is a hot topic also in clinical studies, where elusive phenomena, such as a ‘weak quantum entanglement’, possibly occurring in the triad composed by doctor–drug–patient, have been suggested (76–78): the remedy would act in the context of a tripartite relationship with the patient and the practitioner. What may be the physical basis of such an entanglement (correlation by quantum entanglement is known and accepted only in submicroscopic world) is still a matter of speculation. In any case, assuming that a type of correlation between the tester intentionality and the drug effect could also take place in the laboratory system, this would affect the experimental reproducibility by introducing a further and difficult to control variable. We may expect a contribution of scientific complexity that can give conceptual tools and methods of analysis of these kind of interactions (79). Because till now efforts seem to have concentrated more on homeopathic medicine as an entity in itself, others also considered the effect of the medicine on the body or on its subcomponents.

The Sense of Subtle Regulations

The fact that the laboratory-revealed actions are often small should not be viewed as reducing the significance of findings because what counts in homeopathy is that a remedy is capable of ‘regulating’ or ‘triggering’ the body's response when it is on a far-from equilibrium state, and not that it acts as directly or dramatically as a chemical enzyme inhibitor. When the body is particularly sensitive, characterized by a high degree of instability and in the proximity of ‘bifurcation points’ of its evolution, even a small influence could orient the entire homeodynamic system involved in the disease and thus become a determinant factor in the final result of the reaction. Complex systems typically include subsystems that amplify the small perturbations and chaotic dynamics known to require fine and repeated impulses rather than drastic changes. Such considerations are particularly true in the case of inflammation and the immune system, in which the same mechanisms can be used for defensive or offensive purposes (i.e. cure or self-destruction) depending on their site and the timing and entity of the reaction. This ‘double-faced’ nature of the phenomena makes them susceptible to fine regulation.

Limitations and Prospects

It is worth admitting that one considerable limitation of in vitro studies is their highly sectorial nature insofar as they investigate a local phenomenon in standardized conditions, rather than a complex systemic manifestation such as disease. A number of in vitro effects of homeopathic medicines provided examples of U-shaped dose–response curves, which may be seen as special applications of the principle of similia at the biological and pathophysiological level, but it is important to say that this kind of inverse effect is not ‘the’ explanation of homeopathic effects, which may have further and more complex implications on the level of the organism as a whole. The demonstration that a given medicine stimulates or inhibits activity of a blood cell is interesting in itself, but it does not allow extrapolation (in homeopathy or allopathy) of an action of the same medicine in humans.

In conclusion, the importance of laboratory studies lies in the fact that they have made it possible to obtain some preliminary evidence of the effects of high dilutions/dynamisations under conditions that exclude any possible effect of suggestion. Furthermore, the data reviewed may give indications of some biochemical and molecular targets of homeopathic agents. There are many other reasons that make this type of research worth pursuing. In the future, if reliable and reproducible models for analyzing the effects of homeopathic dilutions are established, it will be possible to deepen our knowledge of the biological and physical bases of the phenomenon, evaluate the drug stability over time, identify any causes of decay, and standardize preparations by comparing activity of different sources and dilutions of raw materials.



This is a reasonable representation of work being done by scientists to explain the effects of Homeopathy. While it will take an overwhelming and un deniable avalanche of these studies to finally influence the 'olde guard' scientific community.
However the general consensus is that "we just want to understand how it works" For the majority of reasoned educated scientists out there.

Mean-while you all go ahead with crude mega dose drug taking.I'll enjoy my miraculous spontaneous cure (7 years and counting) from chronic asthma of 30 years duration.
By the way our local medical centre just kicked my son off their patient list for lack of attendance. According to them I must be taking him out of town to another medical centre because they don't have a presidence for healthy children who don't have a need to see their Dr. I must be saving the health authority a small fortune. Imagine what that would free up $ wise if everyone had the freedom to benefit from Homeopathy. But don't let a small thing like potential billions of $ saved, especially in todays economic climate get in the way of your prejudice.

Anyway, I've said about all I want to say on the subject.
Either you are truly willing to be scientific and look at the issue with an open mind or not.
Even better why not actually try it yourself.

Livs











Acknowledgments


This study was carried out using funds provided by the Italian Ministry of University Scientific and Technological Research (MURST 60%).


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Received August 1, 2005; accepted January 5, 2006

Rogue Medic said...

livs,

Considering the amount of space in the comment section, it is pointless to post an entire study. Posting the title of the study and the web page would accomplish the same goal, unless the goal is to discourage people from reading the criticism of homeopathy in these comments. It is unlikely that people will read the study here, but would prefer to read it in its original form. The review study you cited is available for free at PubMed Central.

Immunology and Homeopathy. 2. Cells of the Immune System and Inflammation

I do not pay attention to research at the cellular level, so I may easily miss things that those familiar with this research would notice. But, the review does not appear to support homeopathy.

One representative quote from the Discussion is worth including here:

As in clinical research, it is highly conceivable that a publication bias in favor of papers reporting positive findings do exist also in basic research and the existence of this bias should be taken into account to formulate a global judgment about the field. Due to lack of consensus or criteria of quality in this type of (admittedly quite preliminary) research, we found it practically impossible to assign a score of quality to each referenced paper. As a matter of fact, the studies here described mirror the relative paucity of scientific homeopathic production concerning action on cells of the immune system.

In other words, that big cut and paste in these comments, shows that there is still no reproducible scientific evidence supporting homeopathy.