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Telocytes in Different Organs of Vertebrates: Potential Essence Cells of the Meridian in Chinese Traditional Medicine

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 May 2020

Shi Yonghong
Affiliation:
MOE Joint International Research Laboratory of Animal Health and Food Safety, College of Veterinary Medicine, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province210095, China
Wu Ruizhi
Affiliation:
MOE Joint International Research Laboratory of Animal Health and Food Safety, College of Veterinary Medicine, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province210095, China
Zhang Yue
Affiliation:
MOE Joint International Research Laboratory of Animal Health and Food Safety, College of Veterinary Medicine, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province210095, China
Bai Xuebing
Affiliation:
MOE Joint International Research Laboratory of Animal Health and Food Safety, College of Veterinary Medicine, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province210095, China
Imran Tarique
Affiliation:
MOE Joint International Research Laboratory of Animal Health and Food Safety, College of Veterinary Medicine, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province210095, China
Liang Chunhua
Affiliation:
MOE Joint International Research Laboratory of Animal Health and Food Safety, College of Veterinary Medicine, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province210095, China
Yang Ping
Affiliation:
MOE Joint International Research Laboratory of Animal Health and Food Safety, College of Veterinary Medicine, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province210095, China
Chen Qiusheng*
Affiliation:
MOE Joint International Research Laboratory of Animal Health and Food Safety, College of Veterinary Medicine, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province210095, China
*
*Author for correspondence: Chen Qiusheng, E-mail: chenqsh305@njau.edu.cn
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Abstract

Telocytes (TCs) are very long, non-neuronal, somatic cells whose function is widely believed to be involved in providing connections between different cells within the body. The cellular characteristics of TCs in various organs have been studied by immunohistochemistry, double immunofluorescence and electron microscopy in different vertebrate species, and here we investigate the proposed properties of these cells in the context of the “meridian” in Chinese Traditional Medicine (CTM). The results show that TCs and their long extensions, telopodes (Tps) develop a complicated network by homo- and heterocellular junctions in the connective tissue throughout the body, which can connect the skin with distant organs. In concept, this is the analogue of ancient meridian maps connecting skin acupoints with the viscera. Various active cells and extracellular vesicles including exosomes move along Tps, which, along with developed mitochondria within the podoms of Tps, may account for the structural evidence for “Qi” (vital energy and signal communication) in CTM. Morphological associations of TCs with the nerve, vascular, endocrine, and immune systems are also compatible with previously proposed meridian theories in CTM. Close relationships exist between TCs and collagen fiber bundles and some structures in skin fascia provide the microanatomical support for acupuncture treatment based on the meridian principle. The dynamicity in the distribution and structure of TCs reflects the plasticity of the meridian at the cellular level. As the same attribute, both the meridian and the TC have been associated with various diseases. Here, we summarize structural analogues between the TC and the meridian, suggesting that TCs have the cytological characteristics of the CTM meridian. We, therefore, hypothesize that TCs are the “essence cells” of the CTM meridian, which can connect and integrate different cells and structures in the connective tissue.

Type
Micrographia
Copyright
Copyright © Microscopy Society of America 2020

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