TCM, Chinese Medicine is a unique construct because it was built on practical, clinical based experiences over thousands of years. In TCM, whilst many parts of the body are understood in terms of their functions, interrelationships and clinical manifestations, their anatomical breakdown was less of a concern compared to the ability to understand the overall organism. This is sometimes in contrast to the “cut and analyse” approach of modern science. However, today the world's modern science and TCM continue to collide or rather mutually support each other. Whilst Scientists have for some time now, known that about 50% of the fluid in the body is located within cells, and about 14% inside the heart, blood vessels and the lymphatic system. The remaining fluid is interstitial (i.e. between the cells). In the latest discovery of medical science, a new organ (yes there is still much we do not know) named the Interstitium has been identified. Interestingly it is also potentiallyconsidered the 'largest' organ in the body and yet only to be discovered now.
Modern research technology (Confocal laser endomicroscopy) has led to the discovery of a long-misunderstood organ that could be full of answers to questions doctors have had for centuries. The organ, known as the interstitium, is the largest organ in the body and is full of fluid that cushions organs. A fluid cell highway, as researchers explained that the Interstitium is "part of the submucosa and a previously unappreciated fluid-filled interstitial space, draining to lymph nodes and supported by a complex network of thick collagen bundles. These bundles are intermittently lined on one side by fibroblast-like cells that stain with endothelial markers and vimentin, although there is a highly unusual and extensive unlined interface between the matrix proteins of the bundles and the surrounding fluid." - Scientific Reports (27 Mar, 2018)
Layers long thought to be dense, connective tissue are actually a series of fluid-filled compartments researchers have termed it the “Interstitium”. These compartments are found beneath the skin, as well as lining the gut, lungs, blood vessels and muscles, joining together to form a network supported by a mesh of strong, flexible proteins. The layer drains into the lymphatic system – the network of vessels transporting lymph, which is involved in the body’s immune response. Besides their ability to cushion the body’s organs and protect them from harm, it was found that cells (unfortunately including cancer cells from tumours) could make their way via the interstitium into the lymphatic system.
The Triple Burner (San Jiao) is considered an organ in Chinese Medicine since the Huangdi Neijing (Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine) written over 2,000 years ago, but was not recognized in modern physiology well until now. There are immense similarities between the descriptions of the San Jiao's function and the newly discovered interstitium, which seems to cross so many organs and systems of the body, especially in relationship to the lymphatic system. In TCM theory, the San Jiao or Triple Burner runs from the top to the bottom of the body, its functions are all about harmonizing, protecting and distribution. It was considered as a functional energy system involved in regulating the activities of other organs. Often denoted as having "a name but no form" and some saying it does have a form, which runs like a channel throughout our body.
Even in modern understanding of Cancer, it was mentioned that "Cancer spreading through fascia" and relating to the Triple-Burner, further explaining how Acupuncture works in the theory of San Jiao (channel pathways of the merdians). Researchers of the interstitium have also agreed that in providing a highway for fluid to move around the body, the interconnected cells of the interstitium may therefore have the unfortunate side effect of spreading cancer around the body.
We are really glad to see that modern science technology has found out about the "already existing" organ, the Triple-Burner in TCM. We look forward in continuing to develop and discover further clinically effective treatments for humanity to enjoy a health life in balance and harmony.