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Homeopathy researchers find what they expect in test-tube study of immune sells

PainSci » bibliography » Porozov et al 2004
Tags: homeopathy, controversy, inflammation, debunkery

One page on PainSci cites Porozov 2004: Does Arnica Gel Work for Pain?

PainSci commentary on Porozov 2004: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

This is small test-tube study of immune cells in a very obscure journal. It begins with the controversial and conspicuously unsupported opinion that Traumeel is effective. These researchers set out to find something that would confirm their beliefs. Unsurprisingly, they found it: they concluded that Traumeel reduced “pro-inflammatory mediators” by roughly half, and even more so when the ingredients were more diluted.

I don’t buy it: it’s much too implausible to accept without much better quality confirmation. It was done in a “complementary” medicine facility by researchers with an extremely high risk of bias, studying isolated cells. As we know from Ioannidis, most research results are wrong … and especially biased test tube studies with implausible results in obscure journals!

This is one of ten studies cited on to substantiate that Traumeel has therapeutic effects. See Does Arnica Gel Work for Pain? for a full discussion of these references as a set.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

Traumeel S (Traumeel), a mixture of highly diluted (10(-1)-10(-9)) extracts from medicinal plants and minerals 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 the ability of resting and PHA-, PMA- or TNF-alpha-activated human T cells, monocytes, and gut epithelial cells to secrete the prototypic pro-inflammatory mediators IL-1beta, TNF-alpha and IL-8 over a period of 24-72 h. Traumeel inhibited the secretion of all three agents in resting, as well as activated immune cells. IL-beta secretion was reduced by up to 70% in both resting and activated cells; TNF-alpha secretion was reduced by up to 65 and 54%, respectively, and IL-8 secretion was reduced by 50% in both resting and activated cells (P < 0.01 for all cells). Interestingly, the effect appeared to be inversely dose-related; maximal inhibition (usually 30-60% inhibition; P < 0.01) was seen with dilutions of 10(-3)-10(-6) of the Traumeel stock material. This finding suggests that Traumeel does not inhibit immune cells functions by exerting a toxic effect. Indeed, Traumeel did not affect T cell and monocyte proliferation. Although additional studies are needed to clarify the mode of action of Traumeel and to demonstrate causative relationship between the inhibition of cytokine/chemokine secretion in cell culture and the reported clinical effects of the preparation, our in vitro results offer a mechanism for the anti-inflammatory effects of Traumeel observed in clinical use.

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