PLoS Info

Have you heard of the Public Library of Science (PLoS)?
PLoS is a nonprofit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world’s scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource.


The Impact of Organic Farming on Quality of Tomatoes Is Associated to Increased Oxidative Stress during Fruit Development

Aurelice B. Oliveira, Carlos F. H. Moura, Ene´as Gomes-Filho, Claudia A. Marco, Laurent Urban, Maria Raquel A. Miranda.   PLoS ONE 8(2): e56354. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056354.  February 2013, Volume 8 , Issue 2.

This study provides both a mechanistic hypothesis and quantitative information regarding the differences in antioxidants found in organic vs. conventionally  farmed tomatoes.  Sugar content (Brix), antioxidants– total phenolics and Vitamin C, contents are significantly higher in the organic fruits.  In addition, tomato fruits from organic farming appear to have a smaller size and mass than fruits from conventional growing systems.

The physiological mechanisms behind the positive effect of organic farming on fruit quality will require additional studies.


Barcoding Human Physical Activity to Assess Chronic Pain Conditions
Anisoara Paraschiv-Ionescu, Christophe Perruchoud,, Eric Buchser, Kamiar Aminian(2012).  PLoS ONE 7(2): e32239.  doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032239


Elders or disabled patients suffering from chronic pain are usually prescribed narcotics and other pharmaceuticals to manage pain but have no exit strategies from these therapies and are therefore at risk for addictions, dependence, or other iatrogenic diseases.   Since pain is measured subjectively, i.e., by the patient, and is now recognized to have a multifactorial (i.e., biopsychosocial) nature, clinicians are often challenged by the need to provide accurate assessments of their interventions to reduce pain.

This interesting paper proposes the use of inertial sensors, based on  commercially available accelerometers and gyroscopes, to quantitatively measure physical activity and by inference, relative changes in pain levels for any patient.  The technology uses  a data logger and 3 sensors– one located on the chest, one on the thigh and one on the shin– to monitor the activity levels of patients suffering from chronic pain.  They use 18 parameters to monitor physical activity quantitatively and can track activity levels over many days.

This work shows that increased physical activity correlates well with reduced pain and also that the ability to make step changes– i.e, to shift from low activity to high activity and back within a given interval– is the best indicator of reduced pain.  Patients suffering from chronic pain may also use these principles to assess their own improvements, following either non- pharmacological  or standard pharmacological interventions for chronic pain, by keeping a diary to record their  activity levels over time.  Increases in the ability to sit or to stand for longer periods, to move short distances in their homes while engaged in common activities of daily living (ADL), or even to walk around their neighborhood correlate with reductions in chronic pain.

Increased activity levels following acupuncture and TuiNa treatments and the practice of Qigong or Taijichuan are well known and provide new options for pain management and wellness without the risk of addiction or dependence.



Inflammation patterns such as allergies, arthritis, irritable and inflammatory bowel disease and idiopathic (i.e., no known causes) syndromes such as fibromyalgia are on the increase.  Our modern stressed-out way of life greatly reduces both the quantity and quality of strong social relationships, as our patients tell us.  Are our immune systems responding to the increased stress in our lives?

Without social relationships to buffer the stress which is a part of daily living, we hurt more. As social creatures, it seems reasonable that the importance of social relationships to good health is very high.

But a 50% increased likelihood of survival for people with stronger social relationships? That is what this July 2010 analysis of published results (includes over 300,000 participants; see below) shows – strong/positive social networks help reduce the risk of mortality at a level similar to not smoking, exercising regularly, not being obese ( i.e., BMI >30), etc.


Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB (2010) PLoS Med 7: e316. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316.


Much has been written on the benefits of acupuncture and also about the inability of modern science to fully explain its mechanism of action.

There is increasing evidence, of relevance to acupuncture and TuiNa, about an early network that provided the “matrix” and connected the cells of the body during the early stages of the development of the zygote.   — i.e., an inter-cellular communications network.

This chemotactic network, based on connective tissue, which preceded both blood vessels and nerves and provided the basis for the transport of messenger chemicals such as cytokines, persists in the adult.  It is considered to be a part of the “bio-field” that is accessed by acupuncture and a variety of other techniques such as TuiNa, massage, and chiropractic.  The research article below provides additional information.


Electrical Impedance of Acupuncture Meridians: The Relevance of Subcutaneous Collagenous Bands

Andrew C. Ahn, Min Park, Jessica R. Shaw, Claire A. McManus, Ted J. Kaptchuk, Helene M. Langevin

PLoS ONE doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011907

excerpted from the article—

“The scientific basis for acupuncture meridians is unknown. Past studies have suggested that acupuncture meridians are physiologically characterized by low electrical impedance and anatomically associated with connective tissue planes.”

“Collagenous bands, represented by increased ultrasound echogenicity, are significantly associated with lower electrical impedance and may account for reduced impedances previously reported at acupuncture meridians. This finding may provide important insights into the nature of acupuncture meridians and the relevance of collagen in bioelectrical measurements.”


For a related and earlier article on this subject by Helene Langevin, see

Fibroblasts form a body-wide cellular network

Helene M. Langevin, Carson J. Cornbrooks, Douglas J. Taatjes
Histochem Cell Biol (2004) 122:7–15


With acupuncture getting increased attention from the science and medicine communities, from the popular media, and from the public, it is important to have uniform standards for the evaluation and presentation of this important body of knowledge.

For example, is a review or a meta-analysis of acupuncture research by a group of MDs and PhDs who have no training in Chinese medicine credible or relevant to providing a critical assessment of  the efficacy of acupuncture protocols for the treatment of illness?


Revised Standards for Reporting Interventions in Clinical Trials of Acupuncture (STRICTA): Extending the CONSORT Statement.
MacPherson H, Altman DG, Hammerschlag R, Youping L, Taixiang W, et al. (2010).  PLoS Med 7(6):e1000261. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000261

excerpted from the article—

“This revised STRICTA Statement has been designed to help improve the reporting of interventions in clinical trials of acupuncture, with the intention that it will help authors of acupuncture trials provide readers with a clear, accurate and transparent account of their acupuncture protocols as well as their control and/or comparator procedures.”