Life Incorporated

     Since my youth, I have always marveled at how fast science and industry are moving.  I was born in the age where massive powerful cars with “horsepower” had grown more popular than horses from the generation before, highway systems were being built, rocket ships were going to the moon, big jet airplanes were all the rave, and scientists were still figuring out fundamental theories behind matter and space.  Black and white TV’s with heavy glass picture tubes and vacuum tubes were considered almost magical with more than five channels to pick from during the day.  There was a wide scope of progress seen all around and an awesome feeling that nothing is impossible.  For perspective, this was all happening in an age when I would be typing this book on a mechanical typewriter on type paper and would have to go to the library and search through shelves of books to do my research.  Medical science was just starting to explore the mysterious things found inside living cells; the function of DNA and mitochondria were not well understood.  Discoveries were featured in the news as important new science and medical technologies were being developed.

     During my life, I lived through the time where personal computing devices were first developed and marketed. I owned one of the first Radio Shack TRS80’s and Apple 2e’s with 80×124 pixel screens and with more than 4K of memory.  Rotary phones were replaced with touch-tone, satellite and cell phones emerged (the stuff of science fiction), different types of color TV’s became popular, and data storage devices were becoming smaller every year.  I can say today that I have seen more technological development in my lifetime, so far, than has been seen in all of history before me, and this is just the beginning.  As I have witnessed the amazing panorama and emergence of knowledge, I have often paused to wonder what might have been the cause of it all. Where did it all come from?  Why have we seen such an overwhelming advance in the last 50 years that has not even been thought possible before?  What does this all really mean for my future and to our systems and society?

     In an analogy to living organisms, I could also ask what makes living organisms grow and thrive under certain conditions.  The fundamental laws of nature and such principles as discussed above seem to have an air of familiarity to corporate structures and may hold some of the answers that will help us shape our future.  I wonder why the corporations that have led the technological advancements (Apple, IBM, Intel, and many others) are respected and venerated as living entities.  They seem to possess a life of their own; their own culture, mission, personality, etc., even though they are comprised of a bunch of individual people working together.  Corporations are thought to possess many of the traits of living organisms.  They have set up systems that govern and define them. These systems, if they are inspirational and viable, seem to take on a life of their own.  If I were to work for such a corporation, I would need to “fit” into this system and perform a role that would promote the mission of the company, or I would eventually be “fired”, having proven useless or even counterproductive to the corporation.

     Doesn’t this sound to you a little like some of the processes of life that we have been exploring so far?  When considering our bodies, we are composed of trillions of cells that work together toward the mission of sustaining our life.  If a cell is to form part of our body, it must “fit” into the system and perform a role that promotes the life of the body, or eventually it will be proven damaged, even counterproductive, and will be eliminated from the body.  We have seen that this system is absolutely essential to preserving the health and vitality of the organism as a whole.  Possibly the only real difference between corporations (coming from the Latin root corpus or “body”) and the organization (organs and systems) of our body is that we can make conscious decisions about the organizations and systems we place in force inside our corporations, but we are pretty much stuck with the systems nature has placed inside our body.  Biological systems, however, are truly wonderful, functional, and instructional.

     We know that if we are successful in setting up viable corporations, with all of their component organizations, we can create systems that can sustain themselves and even thrive.  It is very obvious, however, that if a corporation starts to violate the laws of life, then it will soon lose the ability to sustain itself and eventually it must die.  The analogies between corporations and living organisms are much too strong to ignore and are of interest to study.  Recall that we considered homeostatic balance between supply and demand to be one of the principal laws of life.  The importance of this law can easily be seen in business.  A corporation must systematically take in the supplies it needs to perform its mission (no more, no less), and expend resources and energy (money) judiciously for vital activities necessary to carry out the mission.  Then when the mission is fulfilled, it must generate a profit (excess energy), that in turn fuels the ability to obtain the supplies needed to sustain it through the next cycle (with perhaps a little left over to put aside for contingencies).  It is easy to see that if a corporation violates any of these principles for long, it cannot thrive.  In this way, corporations are very much like living entities.  They are comprised of systems that work together to accomplish a mission that thereby assures the survival of the whole.

     One of the most crucial systems we have set up for the benefit and survival of society is that of the medical or healthcare system.  The mission of this system is clearly to acquire medical knowledge through science and apply this knowledge in order to sustain the health and well-being of individuals.  The real benefit to human society is obvious.  A good medical system generates healthy, strong, capable individuals that have the ability to contribute to society.  The initial establishment of this system, by the Ancient Greek states, is inspirational.  The Greek physician Hippocrates, attributed as being the father of western medicine, established and promoted a mission statement for the medical system that is widely adopted, in principle, today.  Physicians who have learned the art of medicine– when they gain a license to practice medicine– take an oath to follow this mission, which is known as the Hippocratic Oath. It includes the following:

I will…respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow…apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required [regardless of social or economic status]…remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug…I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery…remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability…my responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick…prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure…remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings…If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

Excerpts from the Hippocratic Oath adapted in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, and used in many medical schools today.

The mission of the western medical system is implied in this oath; it is to obtain, respect, and pass on medical knowledge, and to use this knowledge to prevent and relieve human suffering and sickness in all of its forms, and to practice this art on all who need it regardless of status.

     Many generations have benefited from this medical system, including the generation in which we live.  As part of the law of homeostatic balance, it is understood that the fulfillment of this mission will bring honor and economic benefit to its practitioners.  We have seen that the laws of life require that energy (money) be expended to provide the supplies needed to fulfill this mission.  If the physicians are to selflessly serve society, then society must look after the needs of the physicians and provide the supplies they require in order to sustain a viable medical system.  Please note that the laws of life require that in order to have a living viable system, fulfillment of the mission must necessarily be aligned with the ability to provide the supplies and energy needed to continue the cycle.  If this alignment and balance is not maintained, then the system inevitably will die as it runs out of supplies and energy or loses the ability to fulfill its critical mission and purpose.  The system must be able to maintain homeostatic balance.

     It is surprising how in tune we are to the laws of life, often without even recognizing it.  I have asked several people lately (some of them with high social status), “What is the mission and purpose of our medical system?”  Almost all of them have responded without delay, “To make money” or “To sell drugs”.  This, in my opinion, is a somewhat sad evaluation of the mission and purpose of the medical system.  As a result, many are of the opinion that the medical system is failing its true mission and purpose; it is becoming far too costly.  It is becoming ever more obvious that the medical system is set up so that the energy spent in maintaining the system is not aligned with the true mission of eradicating disease and healing individuals.  The current medical system prospers most when people are partially sick; not well enough to stop going to the doctor and buying medications, but are still well enough to pay the bills.  So, if this perception is true, then by the laws of life, the medical system is no longer viable or sustainable, nor is it fulfilling its purpose. 

If these trends persist, the system will turn toward making more money, even at the expense of the individual’s health, and will shun new technologies just because they are disruptive or unprofitable, regardless of how promising they are.

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An Interview with Alan Noble from ASEA

I have been traveling extensively to conferences and labs these last few weeks and have not had the time to post on my blog.  There were several requests, however, to make available on the blog an interview I did this week with Alan Noble, a leader from the ASEA company, that outlines some of the reasons that I became involved in redox signaling technology in the first place.  As an atomic physicist, I was an independent consultant for the ASEA company for a number of years and became interested in stable redox signaling through my work with this company.  I have no holdings in the company, I do not work for them now nor do I have any conflicts of interest.  I did this interview with Alan as a friend.

I hope, during the next week that we will be able to continue our journey of discovery into redox signaling and get back to the meat.  This blog was meant to document this journey into the science of redox signaling in an understandable way so that we all could see the views along the way.  If you have a few minutes, it would be beneficial to start on the very early posts, made years ago, where the science was first being revealed and read this blog in reverse (chronological) order to view the journey.  My best wishes to you all.

 

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The Universal Currency of Life

Agriculas   An old spindly farmer, with the love of the land written on his face, slowly walked out of the land owner’s house.  He had just been told that, because of financial troubles, there was not enough money to pay his wages.  He was able keep the house that he had built on the land.  Times were bad, though, and many people in the town were out of work.  The land values had plummeted and the prospect of selling was bleak.  The old farmer had been working the same land for decades.  He knew nothing else.

In the following days, when he passed the familiar fields on his way to town, he saw that they lay vacant, the spring weeds were starting to claim the land.  In the center of town, he saw the once busy farmer’s market almost empty.  A few stalls were still open, he picked up a few old potatoes and some wilting lettuce for dinner.  Everybody was hurting in the town.  Some were thinking of moving out.  Many were wondering how they were going to make it, food reserves were running short after the long winter.

“Why must we starve?”, thought the old farmer, “There is still enough seed from last year and it is early enough in the spring to plant.”  He reasoned, “I could hitch up the old plow to a horse, turn the land, and plant enough to take care of the families in town.”  The land owner said that he was open to the idea, but could not pay the farmer or help him out.  So the old farmer hitched up the horse and plowed, planted, and ran some water from the ditch onto the land.  Several of his friends that were out of work also agreed to help out.  Soon rows of green spring vegetables filled the field.  The farmer noticed that other farms around him had followed his lead and started to plow and plant also.

After some weeks, the produce began to pour into the town market.  Much of it was given away to people who could not pay and would trade for it with eggs, farm animals, credit, painting, labor, services, etc.  Some people came with bottled fruits from their food stores and traded them for the fresh food and veggies.  Life seemed a bit better around the town market.  There began to be a good variety of food there every day.  People at the market always seemed hopeful and in good cheer.  Soon the market was thriving.  There was not much money, but there now seemed to be plenty of food to trade among the families at the market and around town and even some to sell at other markets in the surrounding towns and cities.

During that summer, a visiting banker came to the town with the intention to take advantage of the destitution and to buy up the land at a fraction of its value.  As he drove into town, he was surprised to see that despite the reported poverty there were well maintained fields and buildings.  Everyone in town seemed to be doing well, all were cheerful and greeted each other on the streets.  The center market was alive with activity.  The land owners no longer were so quick to sell the land at the miserable price he offered.  “How was all this done?”, the banker asked himself.

The banker did not understand that the old farmer had learned to generate the currency of the universe.  The old farmer, when he found himself in possession of this kind of currency, didn’t consider the paper bills with numbers on them to be very attractive at all.

The currency of the universe is really the only type of currency that exists in life.  The paper bills with numbers on them are only truly useful if they motivate us to ultimately generate the universal currency: goods and services that meet the needs of others, rendered willingly, and the working relationships needed to create them.  All life uses this type of currency.  As we have discussed while considering the vast communities of tens of trillions of cells in our body, they use this currency to transact the business of life.  And wouldn’t you know it, so do we all.

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How can Oxidants be Good?

 REDOX

Along the journey of discovery, we undoubtedly carry concepts and ideas with us that we have long accepted as true.  As we look closer, we may discover that some of the concepts we previously thought to be true are in reality incomplete.  If this has happened to you, then welcome to the world of science and discovery.  Being open to new discoveries always changes the way we perceive things.  On this journey, we have seen that oxidants, traditionally thought to be bad for us, are not only good for us but they are fundamental signaling molecules in our cells and tissues.  All of the evidence indicates that we need oxidants in order to live healthy lives.  Let’s take a closer look at this concept and find a few examples of the things that oxidants do that make them essential to life.

According to geological records, after the formation of the earth our atmosphere did not have oxygen gas to speak of.  Most of the elemental oxygen on earth at that time was tied up in water, H2O.  The atmosphere was mostly composed of volcanic gasses (including carbon dioxide), water vapor and inert nitrogen.  As the water vapor condensed into oceans and the earth cooled, the conditions were finally favorable for life.  The earliest living organisms on earth were anaerobic (meaning that they did not require oxygen).  They harnessed energy from the sun or geothermal vents to live.  Some of the species of bacteria we have on earth today are still anaerobic, they do not require oxygen and also do not handle oxidants very well (oxidants are toxic to these types of bacteria).

All of the oxygen that is currently in the atmosphere has been generated by life forms on earth that break apart the water molecules and release oxygen as gas.  All plant cells that perform photosynthesis utilize light energy from the sun to break apart water molecules.  The sunlight captured by the plant cells provides the energy to separate two oxygen atoms from water molecules and transform them into a free radical called superoxide (O2*-), the hydrogen atoms from the water are stored for later use.  In an energy-releasing cascade, the superoxide is transformed into hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and then finally into an oxygen gas molecule (O2).  The energy released from this cascade is used by the plant cells to attach the hydrogen atoms onto carbon atoms to form carbohydrates (sugars), fats and oils.  These are stored and utilized as fuel.  Note that superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, and oxygen produced by photosynthesis are components of the reactive oxygen species (ROS) that we call redox signaling molecules.  Plants also utilize these redox signaling molecules, almost exclusively, to help detect repair and replace their own damaged cells and tissues and power their immune systems.  The resulting oxygen gas produced by plant cells is then released into the atmosphere.

 

The redox signaling molecules produced in plant cells also help regulate the speed of production of sugars and fats inside these plant cells.  Too much hydrogen peroxide, for example, is produced when the plants are in full sunlight.  This excess hydrogen peroxide is designed to deactivate machinery and slow down photosynthesis, as to not overwhelm the plant.  In shade, when the hydrogen peroxide level goes down, photosynthesis is sped back up.  Thus redox signaling molecules are also used to regulate photosynthesis in plants.

photosythesis

When we eat and digest plants our body utilizes the sugars and fats we get from them as fuel.  The metabolism of sugar inside our cells, combined with the oxygen we breathe, runs the same chemical process in reverse to produce energy (ATP) and also to produce redox signaling molecules (ROS) such as superoxide and hydrogen peroxide.  These molecules recombine and the end products are water molecules and carbon dioxide (what the plants start with) and the grand cycle is complete.  In our cells, these redox signaling molecules also help us to regulate our metabolism and help us to detect, repair, and replace our damaged cells.  The advent of redox signaling molecules being produced in living cells is as old as oxygen in earth’s atmosphere.  Our bodies require the oxygen, sugars and fats produced by plants.

Respiration

In the field of medicine, therapies that utilize oxygen or other types of oxidants and oxidative processes are now emerging.  Oxidative therapies include hyper-saturation of oxygen in the body with hyperbaric chambers, ozone therapies, hydrogen peroxide, chlorine dioxide, or therapies that stimulate oxidant (ROS) production in the cells, like pulsed electromagnetic therapies, infrared light therapies.  All of these therapies have the end effect of increasing the amount of ROS produced inside living cells.  Practitioners are reporting high rates of success from these therapies, especially in wound healing, tissue regeneration, and fighting infections.  Exercising muscle tissue also has the effect of increasing the amount of ROS created by the muscle cells, with largely beneficial healing effects.  James Watson, Ph.D. (who won a Nobel Prize for his work in the discovery of the structure of DNA) has now dedicated his life to finding ways to stimulate the production of ROS in cells, he calls ROS “the elixir of life against stressed cells” and touts that cellular ROS holds the cure for diabetes, many cancers, and dementia.

The question has been asked, is ROS an absolute requirement for the regeneration of tissue?  In order to find out, researchers took a look at the regeneration of tadpole tails.  Tadpoles have the ability to regenerate their tails if they happen to be cut off.  Tadpoles are also partially transparent so that ROS can be seen inside the tadpole when revealed with special fluorescent dyes.  It was observed that ROS is super concentrated along the growing edges of the regenerating tail.  When the ROS was artificially removed by putting a strong antioxidant on the tail (vitamin C), the tail would not regrow.

TadpoleROS

We might also ask the question, is ROS an absolute requirement inside living cells?  It is now understood that in the place where proteins are manufactured inside the cell (the endoplasmic reticulum) ROS is utilized to help fold and construct the proteins correctly.  Lack of ROS inside the cell has been proven to cause the proteins to be poorly constructed, ultimately resulting in disease.  Proteins are the micromachines that make the cell work, they contain bonds (disulfide bonds) that can only be broken and reattached with the action of ROS.  Without ROS these micromachines cannot work.  The famous master antioxidant in the cell, glutathione (GSH) contains a sulfur-hydrogen thiol (SH) that is sensitive to ROS.  ROS can pull off the hydrogen and causes the sticky sulfur bonds in two GSH molecules to combine to form oxidized glutathione (GSSG, the SS indicates the disulfide bond).  The oxidation of glutathione when it is in its super suit (called glutathione peroxidase) requires ROS.  This is true for other major actors in the cell, like thioredoxin.  Without ROS, these super machines cannot operate.  So it turns out that ROS, when in homeostatic balance, is absolutely essential to the correct operation of the cell in many areas and in many occasions, especially in the machinery that repair and regenerate cells and tissues.  It was surprising to discover how important ROS is important in all aspects of cell life, from photosynthesis to metabolism of sugars, detection, repair and replacement of damaged cells, regeneration of tissue, immune activation, and the production of proteins.

My own work in the last 10 years has been to find a way to put a safe form of balanced, stabilized ROS (containing many of these redox signaling molecules) into a bottle, observe the results in studies and to educate the world on the science.  This has been to date the most satisfying work of my career.  The possibilities for these redox signaling molecules seem to be endless.

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My Dream

     With every breath I feel life, every drink of pure water and savory bite of nourishment testifies of the reality of my existence, the experiences of being a living being, bound to that which sustains me.  I need no other witness of my existence.  The feelings which burn inside my heart for those who have shared my life are alive as well.  All are a part of me.  I stand for these truths.  I search for these truths.  Nothing else has the power to prevail in the end.  I am complete as I am.

It is by our efforts, no matter how weak, that the world is built.  It is by our dreams that it is made, there is no other reason.  As I have breath, I will not fail to dream.  We all wake up to the reality of our dreams. My reality is built on the dreams of those that have sacrificed their time, talent and lives so that I can build my dream; one that comes more clear after every sacrifice has been made.  I stand on the dreams of others.

Take heart, no sacrifice will be too much in the end if the dream is big enough.  I share in a dream that is worth the sacrifice.  In my dream, we have obtained a state where the truths and knowledge we have gained are employed for the benefit of all we love, where truth (in whatever form) is sought and readily found.  The greatest obstacle to this reality are in the mistaken thought that such knowledge and resources must be horded and leveraged for only individual benefit to obtain position and dominion, foolish and vain pride.  Such systems by their very nature tend to sap more energy and resources from society (to only benefit a few) than they offer society as a whole and therefore must destroy themselves over time and cannot endure.  This is based on physical law.  How long will it take before we realize this?

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My Journey of Discovery

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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.

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How Do We Fix Our Body

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So far we have taken a closer look into our body so that we can get a grasp of how this marvelous machine of ours works.  We also have taken a look of what can happen when something goes wrong with it.  As I have read some of the feedback this week, I’ve realized that many of you have already started to utilize your new-found understanding to help find ways to fix or prevent problems in your own body.  Educating ourselves on how the body works is empowering, but we also need to realize that knowing how the body works and knowing exactly what is wrong doesn’t necessarily give us the information we need to know in order to fix it.  If you were to jump off a roof, for example, and sensed that your leg bone had stressed and snapped when you landed, you may understand very well how the bone works and exactly what has gone wrong with it, but you still might not know how to fix it.  Medical knowledge tells us that we need to clean up the wound, set the bone in place (with a splint, cast, etc.), then simply rest and wait until the body’s own healing process fixes it.  Drinking plenty of fresh water, eating well, exercising wisely, as well as good sleep will most definitely lend to the success of the body’s repair process – time-tested sage advice.

It is always amazing to me how confusing and challenging it seems for us as humans to really get at the principles needed to fix our body when something goes wrong.   Thankfully, hundreds of years of good science gradually are providing us with the tools to figure it all out.  However, for almost all of us the science seems to be pretty confusing and challenging.  Take heart!  It is really not difficult or confusing to understand the simple and true principles of the science behind healing.  We are all starting to realize that the body is a natural machine, made to respond to the biocompatible elements found around us in nature.  We are finding that our bodies are designed to utilize these biocompatible elements to heal itself.  The living cells in plants and animals are the perfect “pharmacies” to provide these elements.  So why not use science to search for things that are biocompatible (safe) and also bioactive (effective) to fix our bodies?

In our search for solutions, consider this: Science is a simply a proven method for discovering truth.  The basic principles of science tend to yield results.  The scientific method is universal and well known: (1) Study current knowledge on a topic and then take a guess on how something that we don’t understand works (make a hypothesis), (2) Design an experiment to determine if your guess was right, and (3) Take what you have learned, document it and return to step #1.  The nice thing about this process is that anyone can do it, and we can get better at it the more we practice.  Science is certainly not limited to scientists.  I recall that even as a small boy I experimented to find the recipe for making the best “baking soda slurries” to relieve my itchy hives.  I was highly motivated to find the answer.  I did so, even though I did not know the all the science behind why it worked.  Scientists, to our credit, have developed great tools and knowledge bases to better determine experimental methods that prove out hypotheses.  Scientists must also come up with their own vocabulary to describe the things they discover.   This is why us scientists like to spend so much time in libraries and laboratories and why we might sound confusing to the layperson.  But people don’t have to be scientists to understand the truths that are being revealed.  We really should learn to talk to one another, scientists and laypeople alike, for more clarity and understanding on how to solve global problems.

As far as the science of healing goes, we are often motivated to find the best way to fix whatever is not working in our body.  Just like in the broken leg example, often the best (and only) way to heal is simply providing the body the basic things it needs to fix itself and then just to wait for the body’s own built-in processes to do the job.  In principle, healing really isn’t that complicated.  Only if the body truly needs more assistance, then will further intervention be necessary.  Please note: pain relievers, cough suppressants, cold medicines, and many other types of symptom relievers can substantially interfere with the natural healing process rather than help it out.  These meds may lessen the symptoms, but many of them will only artificially make you “feel” like healing has happened, they can form strong dependencies and effectively harm you.  It is evident from basic science that the most important tools the body needs to actually heal itself are a good safe environment, good hydration, good nutrition, exercise and sleep.  Life has been doing this successfully for millions of years without medicine, as far as we know.

It is advantageous, once in a while, to use the knowledge we have gained through medical science to help our body fix a problem.  It is also wise to carefully consider the efficacy of the methods that we use.  The absolute best way is by first naturally assisting the body to exercise its own power to fix the problem and then to rely on invasive intervention only when it is the last alternative after the body has exhausted all of its available resources.  The body is capable of doing incredible things when given the chance.  In fact, if we think about it enough, we will realize that it really is up to the power of healing we have inside our own body to get us well.  Medications and procedures can really only assist when needed.  The big question is: How do we give our own body the best chance to fix the problem?

The current medical system in the “westernized” world makes things a bit more confusing and difficult to understand.  Most of the system is focused on finding a comprehensive diagnosis to determine what exactly is wrong with our body (and to give it a name) and then to prescribe a standard treatment (if one exists) to fix the problem.  One complication in this system is that there is usually an ever expanding list of standard treatments available and it is the sole responsibility of the doctors to decide which one of the all of them is the best for us.  Doctors have limited knowledge; there are literally hundreds of years of accumulated knowledge available in the field, far too much for any one individual or group to digest.  Another complication is that the most expensive treatments often provide the doctor with more lucrative financial returns and thus bias the decision.

When we are sick enough to go to a hospital, we desperately want to find a way to fix the problem.  Despite all of the accumulated knowledge we have, there is relatively little information available to help guide us to find the best treatment for any individual case.  Often we are obliged to be at the mercy and bias of medical professionals.  It is very common that different doctors, hospitals, insurances, care systems, etc. have vastly varying treatment and pricing strategies for even the most common diagnoses.  If you were to walk into a hospital with appendicitis, for example, there is no way to predict precisely what would be done to you and how many years it would take for you to pay off the bill.  When the benefits and costs for each of the different treatment options are made to be competitive, so that the best treatment “wins”, then we will begin to see real progress.  This evolution has already taken place in the information technology field, where the best gadget wins and has driven extensive advances in electronics.

I feel a bit uneasy about pointing out weaknesses in the medical system when most of the knowledge that I have learned so far, and shared with you in my blog, has come through extensive medical research financed by our present medical system.  This accumulated knowledge is extremely valuable.  When the health care system is realigned to offering us the best solutions available, we will see enormous advancements.  I have personally worked with nanotechnologies that can detect and disable parasitic, bacterial and viral pathogens, nanoparticles that target cancer cells, cell signaling technologies that enhance cell signaling detection, repair and replacement, and nutritional technologies that naturally strengthen cellular processes.  These technologies represent solutions that we have in our hands to help our bodies to fix themselves more efficiently.  The benefits are extraordinary and help solve world-wide health problems.  It is imperative that we educate the world on how our body works so we all can grasp the full potential of such promising technologies.  May heaven help us.

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