The Extraordinary Fu Organs (Qi Heng Zhe Fu)
Part 2 of 2
by Marty Eisen Ph.D.
continued from September/October 2012 issue
4. Bones (Gu)
The Bones are related to the Kidneys because they store Marrow, produced from Kidney Essence. If Kidney Essence and Marrow are deficient, the Bones will lack nourishment and will be unable to support the body.
The relation between the bones and the Kidneys is also shown from clinical experience in speeding up the healing of fractures by treating the Kidneys.
Bone is composed of several layers of different materials. The periosteum, outermost layer, is a thin, tough membrane of fibrous tissue. It supports the tendons that secure the muscle to the bone and also serves as a protective sheath. This membrane encloses all bones completely except at the joints where there is a layer of cartilage. Dense, hard layers of bone tissue called compact bone lie beneath the periosteum. Its composition is fibrous rather than solid and it gives bone its resiliency. Cancellous or spongy bone is enclosed within these layers. It contains little hollows like those of a sponge and makes up most of the volume of bone. The innermost compartment of the bone is a hollow cavity containing marrow. In the newborn, bones are filled exclusively with red marrow, but as the child ages it is mostly replaced by yellow, or fatty marrow, as described in Section 2.
Blood vessels run through every layer of bone, carrying nutritive elements, oxygen, and other products. Bone tissue also contains a large number of nerves. The basic chemical in bone, which gives bone its hardness and strength, is calcium phosphate.
Development and Restructuring
The major part of bone in the very young consists of cartilage. This accounts for the great flexibility and resiliency of the infant skeleton. Calcium phosphate gradually is deposited in the cartilage, and it becomes harder and more fragile. Some of the cartilage containing cells break loose, so that channels develop in the bone shaft. Blood vessels enter the channels, bearing with them small cells of connective tissue, some of which become osteoblasts, cells that form bone. The osteoblasts enter the hardened cartilage, forming layers of hard, firm bone. Other cells, called osteoclasts, work to tear down old or excess bone structure, allowing the osteoblasts to rebuild it with new bone. This process continues throughout life, although it slows down with age.
Cartilage formation and the subsequent replacement of cartilage by hard material is the mechanism by which bones grow in size. During the period of bone growth, cartilage grows over the hardened portion of bone. In time, this layer of cartilage hardens as calcium phosphate is added, and a fresh layer grows over it, and it too hardens. The process continues until the body reaches full growth. Long bones grow in length because of special cross-sectional layers of cartilage, growth plates, located near the flared ends of the bone.
(i) Protection: Bones protect internal organs.
(ii) Structure: Bones support the body.
(iii) Movement: Bones, skeletal muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints function together to generate and transfer forces so that individual body parts or the whole body can move.
(iv) Sound transduction: Bones are important for this aspect, especially the ear ossicles in hearing.
(v) Blood production: The marrow produces blood cells.
(vi) Mineral storage: Bones act as reserves of minerals important for the body, especially calcium and phosphorus.
(vii) Growth factor storage: The mineralized bone matrix stores important growth factors such as insulin-like growth factors, transforming growth factor, bone morphogenetic proteins and others.
(viii) Fat storage: The yellow bone marrow acts as a storage reserve of fatty acids.
(ix) Acid-base balance: Bone buffers the blood against excessive pH changes by absorbing or releasing alkaline salts.
(x) Detoxification: Bone tissues store heavy metals and other foreign products. This removes them from the blood, thereby reducing their effects on other tissues. Later, these can be released gradually and excreted.
(xi) Endocrine organ: Bone controls phosphate metabolism by releasing fibroblast growth factor – 23 (FGF-23), which acts on kidneys to reduce phosphate reabsorption. Bone cells also release a hormone called osteocalcin, which contributes to the regulation of blood sugar (glucose) and fat deposition. Osteocalcin increases both the insulin secretion and sensitivity of cells. Moreover, it boosts the number of insulin-producing cells and reduces stores of fat.
5. Blood Vessels (Mai)
Blood Vessels contain Blood. Blood is produced from Marrow which is produced from Kidney Essence and also from the transformation of Food Qi with the help of the original Qi of the Kidney. Thus, the Blood Vessels are indirectly related to the Kidneys.
There are three major types of blood vessels: arteries, capillaries, and veins.
Capillaries consist only of a layer of endothelium and occasional connective tissue. This structure allows the exchange of water, nutrients and chemicals between the blood and the tissues.
Arteries carry oxygenated blood away from the heart. They are composed of three layers of tissue.
(i) Tunica intima, the thinnest layer, is a single layer of simple squamous endothelial cells. It is held together by a polysaccharide intercellular matrix and surrounded by a thin layer of subendothelial connective tissue. Interspersed in this tissue are circularly arranged elastic bands, called the internal elastic lamina.
(ii) Tunica media, the thickest layer consists of circularly arranged elastic fiber, connective tissue and polysaccharide substances. In some arteries, this layer contains many vascular, smooth muscles, which control the caliber of the vessel. The second and third layers are separated by another thick elastic band called the external elastic lamina.
(iii) Tunica adventitia or externa is composed of connective tissue, which contains nerves. This layer, in larger arteries also contains nutrient capillaries.
Most veins carry deoxygenated blood from the tissues back to the heart with the exception of the pulmonary and umbilical veins, both of which carry oxygenated blood to the heart.
The thick outermost layer of a vein is the tunica adventia, composed of connective tissue. The tunica media contains bands of smooth muscle, which are generally thin as veins do not function primarily in a contractile manner. Veins will collapse when their lumens are not filled with blood. Their interior, the tunica intima, is lined with endothelial cells.
Most veins have one-way flaps, called venous valves, which are protrusions of the tunica intima. The valves prevent blood from flowing back and pooling in the lower extremities due to the effects of gravity. Venous return to the heart is dependent upon contraction of regional skeletal muscles.
The location of veins is much more variable from person to person than that of arteries. Many veins are located close to the skin, whereas arteries run deeper.
6. Uterus (Zigong)
The Uterus functions in controlling menstruation, conception and pregnancy. In Chinese medicine, the Uterus is connected to the Kidneys by the Directing or Conception Vessel (Ren Mai) and the Penetrating or Thrusting Vessel (Chong Mai), originating in the Kidneys (2). The Conception Vessel provides Blood and the Thrusting Vessel provides Qi to the Uterus. Abundant Kidney Essence ensures that these two Vessels will supply the Uterus with adequate Qi and Blood, so that menstruation and pregnancy will be normal. If there is inadequate Kidney Essence, then the Uterus will not receive sufficient Qi and Blood, which may result in irregular menstruation, amenorrhea, miscarriage or infertility.
The functions of the Uterus depend on an abundant supply of Blood. Thus, the Uterus is physiologically connected to the Heart, Liver and Spleen, which govern, store and control Blood, respectively. If the Spleen doesn’t produce enough Blood and Heart Blood becomes deficient, the Uterus may be inadequately supplied with Blood, resulting in amenorrhea.
Menstrual irregularities often result from dysfunctions of the Liver because it stores and regulates the volume of Blood. Amenorrhea or scanty periods can also result from deficient Liver Blood. Liver Qi stagnation may cause Liver Blood stasis, leading to irregular or painful periods. If the stored Liver Blood is hot, then the Blood in the Uterus may flow out improperly producing metrorrhagia or menorrhagia.
Reproductive disorders often result from a deficiency of Kidney Essence, since the Uterus will be undernourished. For example, a deficiency of Kidney Essence may result in miscarriages or infertility.
The Uterus is closely connected to the Stomach via the Thrusting Vessel which links these Organs. Nausea and vomiting, which sometime occur during menstruation, and morning sickness of pregnancy are often the result of stomach dysfunction caused by the changes in the Uterus.
In Chinese medicine, instead of Uterus, the Red Field (Dan Tian) or Room of Essence (Bao), plays the role of the Uterus. It stores and produces Sperm and is closely related to the Kidneys and Governing Vessel (Du Mai). Deficiencies in the Kidneys and Governing Vessel may affect the Red Field. This can lead to dysfunctions such as, premature ejaculation, clear and watery sperm, impotence, nocturnal emissions and spermatorrhea.
Western Concept of the Uterus
Uterine (Fallopian) tubes: very fine tubes lined with ciliated epithelia, leading from the ovaries into the uterus.
Infundibulum: first part of the uterine tube.
Fimbriae: An ovary is not directly connected to its adjacent Fallopian tube. When ovulation is about to occur, the sex hormones activate the fimbriae, causing it to swell with blood and execute a sweeping motion. When the oocyte is released from the ovary into the peritoneal cavity, the cilia of the fimbriae sweep the ovum into the Fallopian tube.
Fundus: rounded top portion of the uterus above the opening of the fallopian tubes
The uterus or womb is a major female hormone-responsive, reproductive organ. It has three major functions: to prepare an appropriate surface to embed a fertilized ovum and execute the menstrual cycle if fertilization doesn’t occur, to nourish the developing embryo and to expel the newborn infant.
Figure 6 The uterus with connected structures
The womb is shaped like an inverted pear (see Fig. 6) and is in the pelvis. The uterus and its Fallopian tubes are held in place by ligaments and folds of the peritoneum. The cervix (derived from the Latin cervix uteri, meaning “neck of the womb”) is the lower, narrow portion of the uterus and joins with the top end of the vagina. The cervix has an opening to allow sperm and menstrual fluid to move through.
The thickest layer of the uterus is the myometrium. It is composed of an inner layer of smooth muscle fibers, arranged in a circular pattern, a middle layer of interlacing oblique fibers and an outer layer arranged in a longitudinal pattern. The endometrium, the inside, cellular lining of the myometrium, has a glandular (secretory) surface. The myometrium is responsible for contractions of the uterus, important during labor. The endometrium undergoes changes in every cycle to prepare for an embryo and its inner lining is shed during menstruation. Hence, before menopause, the womb is an extremely active organ, whose changes are controlled by secreted hormones.
The Gallbladder is considered an Extraordinary Organ because it stores bile, a pure substance, unlike the other Yang Organs. Its functions are just those of the Gallbladder, which were already discussed with the Yang Organs.
The Gallbladder is indirectly, psychologically related to the Kidneys. The Kidneys control will power, while the Gallbladder controls decisiveness and courage, which are interrelated.
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Marty Eisen, PhD – a retired scientist, who constructed mathematical models in medicine. He has studied and taught Judo, Shotokan Karate, Aikido, Qigong, Praying Mantis Kung Fu, and Tai Chi. Dr. Eisen studied Chinese herbology, as well as other branches of Chinese medicine, and was the Director of Education of the Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Institute in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. For more information about Dr. Eisen please visit http://home.comcast.net/~carolezak.