Life is an incredible journey of discovery. There simply is no way to know everything that will happen in life before experiencing it. As a scientist and researcher, I have found that the joy of discovery is highly motivational. There is no fun in science if we presume to know it all. It is this journey into the unknown and finding gems of truth along the way that makes life so interesting. As a small boy, I had determined to discover the mysteries of life. Yet even after spending half my life in earnest pursuit and graduating with my Ph.D. in atomic physics, I have learned just how little we really know. The mysteries of the universe are beautiful and alluring, but truth is a careful suitor. She will only reveal herself to those who have a true desire to know her and love her. Once obtained, she brings great power to the person who possesses her.
After obtaining my Ph.D., it was my great desire to be loyal to my love of truth and wield this power for the greatest good I possibly could. It seemed to me that spending the rest of my life to advance promising, emerging medical technologies would fulfill my dreams. From my work in graduate school, I had visions of building better and more advanced diagnostic tools for cancer and lung disease. However, after I graduated the emerging field of nanotechnology caught my interest. There was and is great potential in this field. We can engineer small molecule-sized particles and micro machines to form new materials that interact with living cells and tissues.
I went into the nanotechnology industry and worked on tiny particles, only hundreds of atoms wide, that could adhere to and disable viruses, bacteria, and parasites. We designed particles that could be programmed to target specific cells and tissues in the body. With these tiny nanoparticles inside the targeted tissues, it was possible to image tissues, deliver drugs directly to the tissue, or heat up and destroy specific tumors. For a while, it appeared like I was living my dream, yet I soon realized how difficult and frustrating it is to get these new emerging technologies into the hands of the people that most need them.
Imagine this scene: It was October 2007 in a laboratory in the middle of the Salt Lake Valley. In my hand was a freshly manufactured bottle of shining amber liquid. On the lab table was a lit-up computer screen surrounded with papers. On the computer screen were pictures from a transmission electron microscope of this amber liquid magnified 800,000 times; clearly seen in the microscopic image were tiny metal spheres of silver measuring only 6 billionths of a meter wide. One of the scientific papers on the desk gives a depiction of how these same nanoparticles can attach to and disable the AIDS virus, with evidence that they actually disable the AIDS virus in living animals. One of the other papers on the lab table was open to a report of a study done in Africa where these very same spherical silver nanoparticles have been shown to kill the malaria parasite. There are charts mapping out incredible recovery times of malaria victims. In under 5 days, whole communities of people taking these nanoparticles had completely recovered from malaria. Looking at the bottle of beautiful, pristine, tiny spherical nanoparticles in pure water, I could not help but reflect on the possibilities.
Science is, in essence, a method to find out whether something is true or not. In my mind, I could think of a hundred experiments following the principles of the scientific method that we could do to prove the various applications of many of these emerging technologies. Given the substantial financial barriers to performing good science ($100,000’s of dollars for a typical human study), the realization gradually gripped me that good business structures -such as those in universities- are absolutely essential to establish good science. After seeing the high potential of some of these nanotechnologies, it was my desire to test them to see if they would work in a clinical environment. The opportunity came to start up some clinical trials in Ghana, Africa; several clinics were willing to cooperate in a large-scale Malaria study with these nanoparticles. My wife was not very pleased with the notion of me running off into the middle of Africa and said with no uncertain terms that unless there was enough money to sustain her and my family, there would be no chance for me to go. I eventually had to agree. I knew that my wife was right, but that didn’t diminish my desire to do it. A few years later, a colleague of mine went and realized the study with very good results. Fate had taken me on a different pathway. It was at this time, when I was hungry for action, that I met one of the greatest business strategists that has ever graced this planet. He was responsible for restructuring $30 billion dollar industries and had contacts in the highest echelons of global industry. I found out that he lived in my neighborhood; my wife knew his daughter. At the insistence of my wife, we set up an appointment for lunch.
I placed a bottle of nanoparticles in my pocket and went over a well-rehearsed business proposal in my mind. I brought my father to this lunch appointment; he also holds a Ph.D. in physics and I value his opinion and support. At the restaurant, an impressive, intelligent, and articulate gentleman (with not a hair out of place) sat down with us. As the conversation evolved, however, we shifted from nanotechnologies to a different technology that he was interested in acquiring. He placed a bottle of processed saltwater on the table and told me that it was processed through some sort of electro-catalytic device. He claimed that this liquid had greatly improved his health and wellbeing. I politely replied that I believed that all that could possibly be known about the electrochemistry of salt water was already known. I admit that my mind was scurrying to recall any research on saline electrochemistry and I wished to offer some kindly direction to this gentleman. I knew of the importance of saline in biology, yet I figured that there was only a one in a million chance that there was anything new to learn from salt water, except possibly another point in the case for the placebo effect; this gentlemen was certainly sincere and convincing in his approach. “Maybe it is some type of nanoparticle”, he inquired. I took out my laser, poured the liquid in a glass, and shined the laser through it. Nope, no nanoparticles. You can see them as they scatter light. It was no big surprise to me that processed salt water didn’t contain nanoparticles.
The conversation quickly turned toward the processed saltwater. I had no power to shift it back toward nanotechnology; my potential benefactor held all the marbles. I learned that tens of millions of dollars of research had been done. I listened to seemingly exaggerated stories of personal benefit and I learned the history and genesis of how this “new” technology emerged. My hopes for gaining my objective were starting to look dim at this point. Yet, surprisingly, there was a latent under-swelling of curiosity starting to surface. I was curious how this seemingly intelligent, immensely successful businessman could be so tied up on processed salt water. I wondered what might be in it and what the years of research had to say about it. So when he asked me, “Will you help me figure it out?”, I found myself saying, “Yes, I will take a look at the research”. Though, I admit, my intentions at this juncture were to kindly guide this gentlemen -with whom I felt a growing friendship- away from an obviously mistaken path and possibly help to bring him around to a more sensible one. Later that evening, several boxes containing research reports were dropped off at my house.
During evenings and off-hours, I found myself reading through 16 years of research on this electrolyzed salt water with its special composition. This research was good; it was all done by credible research institutions and commercial labs that were used by major pharmaceutical companies. The research had an interesting story to tell. In the first several studies I read, the standard tests used to determine toxicity yielded excellent, almost unrealistic, results. This electrolyzed salt water with its unique composition was shown to be as safe as normal saline to all types of cells, tissues, and systems. No liquid that I knew of–except for salt water (saline) itself, such as that used in IV drips–would have such an innocuous, safe effect on animals. This again caught my attention. It fit my first criterion for a beneficial medical technology; namely, being universally biocompatible. I read through the rest of the safety studies. They all indicated that this liquid was extremely biocompatible to all complex forms of life that were tested.
My second criterion led me to ask if it did anything beneficial. Again the research had some interesting things to say; I read published studies showing that this liquid killed bacteria, viruses, and fungi on contact. In some cases, practically 100% of the microbes tested– even some of the most resistant and virulent–were dead in less than 30 seconds after contact. Apart from anything else it might do, it seemed to fit the profile of an ideal antimicrobial, having much better scores than penicillin for safety and effectiveness. The main drawback was that this composition would degrade quickly when in contact with organic material and so these effects were short-lived. Another study revealed that this liquid was effective in aiding certain lung functions, mucus clearance, reduced microbe counts, and better respiration. The studies that were done were very encouraging and showed overall benefit for the tissues and systems that were studied. At this point in my investigation, I felt obligated to report back to this gentleman that in my opinion there might be some significant merit to this electrolyzed Redox solution. We met in a library conference room. I offered my opinion and at the end he smiled, knowingly, and then asked me again if I would help him to figure it out. I felt that I still needed to investigate this further before I could make any commitment.
For many long evenings, I found myself in the university library looking up journal articles on the components listed in this unique composition (hydrogen peroxide, superoxide, hypochlorites, ozone, and so on) to try to find an explanation for the surprising characteristics mentioned above and to ascertain what their mechanism and role is in living cells and tissues. It became very apparent that there is an abundance of knowledge on this topic, yet the full significance was not apparent until I came across several papers on an emerging area of bioscience called redox signaling. At that time, there were hundreds of peer-reviewed articles outlining research published on this topic; now there are literally thousands of papers. The components of this electrolyzed solution are being heavily studied and are known in scientific literature as reactive oxygen species (ROS). I found that the ROS in this electrolyzed solution are known to have fundamental signaling roles in living organisms. For the reader’s reference, ROS, along with RNS (reactive nitrogen species) and RSS (reactive sulfur species), as a group can generally be referred to as redox signaling molecules. REDOX means REDuction/OXidation and is a term used to describe the reductive and oxidative nature of the interactions between atoms and molecules.
Thanks to the emerging field of redox signaling, the puzzle pieces finally started to link together. The research clearly showed that ROS is an integral component in the vital fluids inside and outside of living cells in all forms of life. The redox signaling molecules in the vital fluids are kept in strict homeostatic balance by healthy cells. As the picture further emerged, it was obvious that ROS, which contain oxidants generated inside the cells, are vital and needed; they serve an important role in cells and tissues. It became very clear that oxidants are equal companions with antioxidants in the body. Gone is the myth that oxidants are evil molecules and antioxidants are super heroes. It is now obvious that if we were to eliminate all of the oxidants in our body, we would rapidly die. The field of redox signaling explores the vital balanced role that oxidants have in cellular biology. I learned that oxidants are produced, carefully controlled, and regulated in our cells. They oxidize the molecular semaphores that control the signaling networks in all forms of life. I gradually came to an understanding of how important the cycles of dynamic oxidation and reduction are inside cells and how changes in these cycles self-regulate the system toward equilibrium and balance, activating the programming that allows cells to respond to damage, toxins, and infections, restore equilibrium, and heal our tissues.
The molecular components in this electrolyzed saline that I was studying started to take on a whole new light. Instead of being thought to be harmful byproducts of our metabolism that should be eliminated, these oxidants were now understood to be a vital part of the whole cellular process; indispensable components of life. It started to make sense why this special balance of redox signaling molecules was completely compatible with cells and tissues and had such remarkable effects. These components are already inside us in large amounts. The research began to open up a view; a vast horizon of almost unending possibilities.
At this point, after careful consideration, I decided to accept the offer of this gentleman and spend some time to examine the putative mechanism of action of this electrolyzed saltwater solution. The journey of discovery that ensued was breathtaking, trailing all the way back to the very foundation on which all life on earth is based. The biochemistry of salt water as it undergoes reduction and oxidation (redox) reactions inside living cells surrounds the fundamental biochemistry in all forms of life–from microbes, to plants, to complex animals, to humans. There was great satisfaction in unveiling some of the most simple, yet well-kept, principles of life. I met with top-level researchers and started a research program on this electrolyzed salt water with its specific Redox composition. We verified that it was safe, once again, and found that it significantly enhanced the action of antioxidants, and increased cell-to-cell communications, enhancing the reception of hormones and electrical signals. We verified the components of this solution– some of which had never been stabilized before– and we identified stable complexes and how to more effectively stabilize them in biological fluids.
I know that life has already found a way to do many things better than we could ever imagine; the cells build fascinating micromachines that work remarkably well. Any nanoparticle we could engineer pales in comparison. Besides, the nanoparticles that work the best are those truly compatible with our cells and tissues anyway; those that already exist in nature. I learned that the molecules in this Redox composition are the fundamental signaling molecules of nature. Now I was on the journey of discovery into how all life functions on the most fundamental level: on the level where the vital salt-water fluids inside all life interact with the molecules of life. I was on a journey of discovery and was not about to get off.
For several years it has been my desire to write a book that chronicles my own journey of discovery into redox signaling in a way that would lead the reader down the path of discovery without having to have years of previous experience or a Ph.D. The book I am writing is meant to lead the reader through the same experience, yet on a high-level perspective that does not require such a deep knowledge of science. I hope you enjoy your own journey of discovery.