Osteopathic medicine meets basic science needs

Asa Keimig | Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator | Feb 13, 2017

Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) – Center for Research (CR) hosted Lisa M. Hodge, PhD, last month, at the Center for Medical and Health Sciences. Her presentation was part of the annual Biomedical Frontiers Seminar Series sponsored by the Center for Research.

The Biomedical Frontiers Seminar Series was open to the public and welcomed more than 50 guests that were interested in biomedical and health sciences. Dr. Hodge's presentation was titled "Osteopathic Lymphatic Pump Techniques Enhance the Lymphatic and Immune Systems and Protect Against Infectious Diseases." The Hodge Lab at the University of North Texas currently investigates the effect of manual therapies, such as osteopathic manipulative treatments (OMT), in response to infection and inflammatory diseases. Therapies, such as OMT, attempt to alter disease progression by enhancing the lymphatic and immune systems.

Lymphatic vessels have the important role of carrying molecules from the tissue and then filtering them into lymph nodes, and then moving them back into circulation in the bloodstream. The entire process is performed without the use of a central heart pump and much of what propels lymph nodes involve mechanical forces provided by skeletal muscles, through exercise or intrinsic mechanisms. Dr. Hodge and her research team have focused on the importance of how the lymphatic vessels stretch and contract, propelling lymphatic flow, in response to physical contact.

Currently, there are no Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved pharmaceuticals that increase lymphatic flow. However, there are alternative therapies that include exercise, passive limb rotation, massage/lymphatic drainage, pneumatic compression devices, and OMT that have been shown to increase lymphatic flow in both humans and animals. Several Osteopathic techniques designed to enhance lymph circulation include myofascial release (MFR), traction, release of diaphragms, and lymphatic pump techniques (LPT).

Through her research, Dr. Hodge and her team have demonstrated that OMT improves immune response in cases of pneumonia. It has been shown to increase the number of leukocytes, causes a transient increase in basophils, improves sputum production, shortens the duration of cough, and even decreases the length of hospital stay for elderly patients. Collectively, the results from her research suggest that OMT can ultimately enhance the immune system and protect against pneumonia and other inflammatory diseases.

The lab performed case studies on both healthy rats and diseased rats. By stimulating lymph flow, LPT could potentially mobilize immune cells and inflammatory mediators into lymphatic circulation. The experiment with healthy rats showed that four minutes of LPT enhanced lymph flow, increased concentration of leukocytes, mobilized inflammatory mediators into circulation, and mobilized lymph into circulation. The experiment with diseased rats showed that the use LPT increased the concentration of leukocytes and the flux of inflammatory mediators in lymph, stimulated the release of leukocytes from gastrointestinal (GI) lymphoid tissues, and protected against pneumonia. LPT acted as form of adjuvant therapy in addition to antibiotics.

Dr. Hodge and her research team have demonstrated through basic science research that Osteopathic techniques can contribute to both the diagnosis and treatment of patients. As a highlight, she referenced a quote from the founder of OMM, Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO,“ We strike at the source of life and death when we go to the lymphatics.”

Dr. Hodge serves as an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Immunology and holds a joint appointment with the Osteopathic Research Center at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. In addition, she is the chair for the National Osteopathic Heritage Foundation and is a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Blood and Lymph and the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.