A new method to evaluate the dose-effect relationship of a TCM formula Gegen Qinlian Decoction: “Focus” mode of integrated biomarkers
Abstract It is difficult to accurately evaluate the efficacy of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which leads to the uncertainty and complexity of dose-effect analysis. In this study we established the “Focus” mode of biomarkers to characterize the dose-effect relationship of Gegen Qinlian Decoction (GQD), a TCM formula for treating type 2 diabetes mellitus (2-DM). A rat model of 2-DM was established through high fat diet feeding combined with low-dose STZ injection. Rats with 2-DM were administered high, middle or low doses (6.785, 4.071, 1.357 mg·kg-1·d-1, respectively) of GQD extract for 60 d. Metformin (300 mg·kg-1·d-1) was taken as the positive control. Blood samples were collected to assess serum biochemical indexes and metabolic profiling. After “Focus” analysis, the biochemical index triglycerides (TG) and insulin sensitivity (ISI) were identified as focused integrated biomarkers (FIBs), while arachidonic acid and docosatetraenoic acid were the metabolic FIBs. Dose-effect relationship curves of GQD were built based on these types of FIBs. Furthermore, the two dose-effect relationship curves showed similar trends with the middle dosage displaying the greatest efficacy, suggesting that insulin function and arachidonic acid metabolism played important roles in 2-DM and the responses to GQD. The metabolic FIB docosatetraenoic should be further explored for understanding its involvement in the process of 2-DM occurrence and the treatment. This “Focus” mode provides a novel strategy to evaluate the dose-effect relationship of a TCM. The system and concepts established here may also be applicable for assessing the dose-effect relationships of Western medicines.