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Traditional Chinese medicine experts from Guangdong province and the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions have joined forces to set up a landmark integrated TCM center in the region, resolving to spur innovation and advancement in treating autoimmune diseases.

The joint venture - the Chinese Medicine Innovation Center of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area - is spearheaded by the Guangdong Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, with support from Hong Kong Baptist University and the University of Macau.

The three institutions will pool their resources and talent, hoping to unearth potent TCM treatments for autoimmune diseases - a condition in which a person"s immune system gets confused and begins attacking healthy body cells.

"Autoimmune diseases are considered chronic disorders and have been quite obstinate," Lyu Aiping, chair professor and dean of the School of Chinese Medicine at Hong Kong Baptist University, told China Daily.

TCM - a long-standing set of Chinese medical practices used to restore the body"s balance and strengthen the immune system - has, so far, shown promise in treating autoimmune disorders, he said.

Lyu is among the key planners responsible for mapping out action plans for the integrated center. The three institutions aim to roll out a string of TCM research projects in the coming years, and facilities will be built in the three regions to support them.

Diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and systemic lupus erythematosus top the team"s watchlist, and have been the main research interest for the three academies.

"We aim to complement each other"s expertise and put together our research results. The goal is to come up with novel methods and drugs to curb formidable ailments and, eventually, enhance public health," Lyu said.

Central government officials and representatives of the three institutions gathered in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, on Aug 9 to inaugurate the platform.

At a symposium during the meeting, participants agreed that Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao should tap into the platform and see the Greater Bay Area as a channel for putting TCM on the world map.

Yu Yanhong, deputy head of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which rolled out the project, told the meeting that collective research on autoimmune diseases is just the starting point.

She believes the effort will result in a viable, continuous cooperation mechanism for the TCM sector in the Greater Bay Area and help it take off globally.

Bian Zhaoxiang, associate vice-president for Chinese medicine development at Hong Kong Baptist University, said the Greater Bay Area"s geographical and economical potential will be a huge boon in promoting TCM overseas.

To help TCM gain a reputable foothold worldwide, it"s crucial to standardize it in clinical diagnosis and treatment, said Chen Dacan, president of the Guangdong Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

In February, Guangdong authorities approved the creation of an international research institute, allowing researchers to work with the World Health Organization in drawing up international guidelines and systematizing TCM research.

"The mainland has had a full-blown, well-established TCM clinical system. Researchers in Hong Kong should turn such collaboration into benefits, seize the chances to learn from mainland professionals and make breakthroughs in TCM," Lyu said.