Book Review [3,9]

Volume: 3
Issue: 9
September 15, 2008
Book Review [3,9]

Dear Colleagues: 
You may have noticed that I complain from time to time about the lack of English-language literature on neural therapy.  Our inveterate correspondent Rainer Kumm, (a German-trained physician practicing in the UK) regularly reminds me of this by referring me to German and Spanish literature.  I am not sure who is the more frustrated by my lack of knowledge of those languages.  
As I explained in the introduction to my book Neural Therapy: Applied neurophysiology and other topics,  my solution to this dilemma has been to go to first principles of science and to build from there.  Basic science has been the resource for most of my medical thinking in this area, but even here there are limitations.  Not all the important science in the world is published in English! 
This is especially true in the realm of biophysics.  It seems that German and Russian scientists have published a great deal in their own languages.  Whether this is due to a lack of interest in the subject in the English speaking world, difficulty finding good translators, or simply choosing to write for the largest existing audience, it is hard to say.  
About 25 years ago a monograph summarizing many years of work by a group of Austrian researchers was translated into English.  The title of the book was “The Extracellular Matrix and Ground Regulation”.  The subject matter was the anatomy and physiology of the extracellular space.  The book’s author was Alfred Pischinger.
This marvelous little book was important for two reasons: (1) It was a systematic study of a neglected subject – the “matrix” or extracellular space. (2) It was a window (through the language barrier) into the German-speaking world of science and medicine.
This book has been one of my most treasured possessions for over 20 years.  I have gone back to it often and you will notice many references to it in my book on neural therapy.  You can imagine my excitement at the news that a translation of the (new) German 10th edition is now available.
Alfred Pischinger passed away in 1982 so this edition is edited by a colleague, Hartmut Heine; – at least that is what is stated on the cover.  However examination of the contents shows three editors, one for each of its three sections.  The first section is by Heine and covers the structure and function of the extracellular space.  The second (by Bergsmann) covers regulatory control of the “ground system” found in this space.  The third (by Perger) is about “therapeutic consequences” of matrix regulation research.
Information about neural therapy (and acupuncture) is scattered throughout the book.  In the first section, the structure and function of proteoglycans and structural glycoproteins is covered in a general way.  It is fascinating to read how the bottle-brush structure of proteoglycan molecules interplay with crystalline water.  And how the glycocalyx (the sugar surface of cells and other intercellular components) transmits information through the extracellular space and through the cell membranes.  All these molecules are negatively charged and electrically very active.  The proteoglycans in particular, have piezo-electric properties, respond to mechanical as well electrical forces, and act as a sieve, permitting or preventing the passage of large protein molecules according to circumstances. The clinical recognition of the importance of adequate hydration makes more sense when the physiology of this space is understood.  In addition, the matrix’s electrical properties support the idea that information can be spread rapidly throughout the body independently of the nervous system.
The second section includes a brief tutorial on cybernetics, i.e. feedback loops and regulatory principles.  Neural therapy has sometimes been referred to as “regulation therapy” and this part explains why.  It is especially useful in explaining the limits of neural therapy and why it often does not work when the ground system (and the  autonomic nervous system) is “blocked”.   The anatomy and physiology of acupuncture points is covered.  Acupuncture points are described as “windows” into the extracellular matrix.  Palpation of these points is recommended as a method of evaluating the condition of the underlying extracellular tissue.
The third section describes the famous “puncture phenomenon” discovered by Pischinger in the 1970s.  Skin puncture was shown to provoke changes in venous pH, oxygen saturation, electrolytes, cholesterol, leukocytes, etc., lasting up to five days, especially on the ipsilateral side of the body.  Because these changes are measurable on the venous side only, a disturbance in matrix regulation is the obvious cause. Iodometry, a technique of measuring iodine consumption of the blood and thus the concentration of oxidants (such as free radicals) was developed to assess the reactivity of the ground system.  This method has been used to demonstrate that the outcome of all treatments, from neural therapy to surgery and chemotherapy, is affected by the pre-existing state of the matrix.
I was intrigued to find that the state of the gut has been recognized to have a major effect on the body’s ability to regulate.  There was an inkling of this idea in the last edition, but considerable new research is presented to flesh this concept out. 
The organization of this edition is improved over the last one.  The writing and translation are better in the first two sections, but strangely, not in the last.  It would have been helpful had trade names of some medications and German diagnostic procedures and protocols been explained for English speaking readers. 
This book is nevertheless a treasure – highly recommended for all physicians, and especially those interested in neural therapy. 

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