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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 731969, 23 pages
Review Article

Navigating Traditional Chinese Medicine Network Pharmacology and Computational Tools

1Longhua Hospital Affiliated to Shanghai University of TCM, Shanghai 200032, China
2Institute of Digestive Disease, Longhua Hospital, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 200032, China

Received 6 June 2013; Accepted 4 July 2013

Academic Editor: Ai-ping Lu

Copyright © 2013 Ming Yang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The concept of “network target” has ushered in a new era in the field of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). As a new research approach, network pharmacology is based on the analysis of network models and systems biology. Taking advantage of advancements in systems biology, a high degree of integration data analysis strategy and interpretable visualization provides deeper insights into the underlying mechanisms of TCM theories, including the principles of herb combination, biological foundations of herb or herbal formulae action, and molecular basis of TCM syndromes. In this study, we review several recent developments in TCM network pharmacology research and discuss their potential for bridging the gap between traditional and modern medicine. We briefly summarize the two main functional applications of TCM network models: understanding/uncovering and predicting/discovering. In particular, we focus on how TCM network pharmacology research is conducted and highlight different computational tools, such as network-based and machine learning algorithms, and sources that have been proposed and applied to the different steps involved in the research process. To make network pharmacology research commonplace, some basic network definitions and analysis methods are presented.