Let’s jump forward half a century to 1958, when a young orthodopaedic surgeon in the US called Robert Becker started experimenting with salamander limbs and electrical currents, trying to figure out what role, if any, an electric current played in the regeneration and mending of bones.
Becker chose to experiment on salamanders because it was almost as physically complicated as a human being, yet had an amazing ability lacking in other mammals to spontaneously regenerate a severed limb.
Becker was exploring ‘what’, biologically-speaking, organized the growth of this new limb, and how the blastema - a little ball of undifferentiated cells that can turn into any other cell - knew what to do.
WHAT ORGANISES CELLS TO BECOME A PERSON OR CREATURE?
It was the same question, phrased in different words, that had the embryologists stumped, too: what was organizing the undifferentiated cells? What was controlling their development and corralling the process of regeneration?
Earlier on, in the 1930s, Paul Weiss floated the theory that the body had some sort of intangible ‘morphogenetic field’ that held the blueprint of what the body would become. The idea didn’t get very far in more traditional scientific circles, so by the time Becker came on the scene, no real progress had been made to try find if such a field actually existed, and if it did, how it actually stimulated undifferentiated cells to switch particular genes on and off.
Becker had his work cut out for him, not least because the overwhelmingly ‘mechanist’ view of medicine was shooting down any ideas that had even a whiff of belonging to the vitalist view point of life.
Becker writes: “When I started out, it was very dangerous for one’s career even to suggest that mature cells might create the blastema by de-differentiation.”
The idea that some cells in a mature, complex vertebrate could revert completely to their primitive, ‘undifferentiated’ state, and then turn into a regenerated limb, for example, turned orthodox ideas about how the human body works on its head.
Yet amazingly, that’s what Becker’s subsequent experiments proved conclusively.
THE CURRENT OF INJURY
Becker began by reviewing the work of Russian biophysicist, A.M. Sinyukhin, whose work with tomato plants turned up what came to be called a ‘current of injury’. Sinyukhin cut branches off tomato plants, and then measured what was happening electrically near the place of the ‘wound’.
Over the first few days after the injury, a stream of electrons that formed a negative current flowed from the wound. The same thing happens to wounds in animals, too. In the second week, as a ‘scab’ formed on the wound and a new branch started to grow, the current reversed polarity to become positive, and became stronger.
As the positive current increased, the tomato plant’s cells at the site of the wound more than doubled their metabolic rate, became more acidic, and started producing more Vitamin C.
Sinyukhin’s experiments proved some very important principles:
1) That a change in the electrical current seemed to be linked to regeneration
2) The electrical current that initiated these changes was tiny - between 2 - 3 amperes.
Armed with this information, Becker started experimenting on salamanders (that can regenerate limbs) and bullfrogs (that can’t regenerate limbs).
AMAZING THINGS BECKER LEARNED ABOUT THE ELECTRICAL PROPERTIES OF THE BODY
Amongst other things, Becker’s experiments showed that:
Becker found that the body’s electrical field mapped to the body’s nervous system, with the head and spinal region being strongly positive. He also found that the body’s tiny DC current controlled the way nerves worked in the brain, as well as the rest of the body, including regulating states of consciousness.
“Redifferentiation instructions are passed along a tissue arc whose main element is the circuit already established between nerves and epidermis….The direction (polarity) plus the magnitude and force (amperage and voltage) of current could serve as a vector system giving distinct values for every area of the body. The electric field surrounding continuously charged and diminished with the distance from the nerve would provide a third coordinate, giving each cell a slightly different electrical potential…A magnetic field must exist around the current flow…adding a fourth dimension to the system. Together, these values might suffice to pinpoint any cell in the body.”
The idea is that these electric and magnetic fields could affect the charged cell membrane’s “‘choice’ of what ions to absorb, reject or expel’ - or to put it another way, could sway which genes gets switched on or off in every particular cell, together with the associated chemical changes.
“ELECTRICAL FORCES TURN THE KEY THAT UNLOCK THE REPRESSED GENES”
In theory, Becker’s experiments proved that an electrical current was ‘the primary stimulus that began the regenerative process, and that it could operate in mammals.’ But then he hit the next problem: there weren’t enough electrically-sensitive cells in human bone marrow to make enough a big enough blastema to regenerate a limb in a human. So Becker turned his attention to trying to find a way of making other cells in the human body ‘electrically sensitive’, so that they could also dediffentiate when a tiny current of electricity was applied.
SILVER IONS KILL ALL TYPES OF BACTERIA WITHOUT SIDE-EFFECTS
Becker discovered that using a silver electrode ‘at the positive pole killed or deactivated every type of bacteria without side-effects, even with very low currents.’ But that wasn’t even the only amazing thing he discovered. He also learnt that a positive silver electrode ‘dedifferentiates connective tissue cells’, called fibroblasts.
What 'positively charged' silver ions was proven to do:
NOT ALL CELLS IN THE HUMAN BODY CAN DEDIFFERENTIATE
Not all cells in the human body can dedifferentiate. The following cells were all dediffentiated in response to electrical stimulus by Becker and his team:
The right amount of electrical current has to be aimed at the right type of cells for de-differentiation to occur.
THE BODY'S BIO-ELECTRICITY IS FLOWING THROUGH THE PERINEURAL CELLS
It’s now believed that the body’s current flows through the perineural cells. Perineural cells is a catch-all description for many different types of cell that surround every nerve cell like a kind of ‘sheath’, and which account for 90% of the human brain.
The neuron is the basic unit of all nervous sytems. Nerves are how different parts of the body communicate. The whole neuron is ‘wrapped’ in different sorts of perineural cells. The different types of perineural cells in the brain are called ‘glia’. Schwann cells ‘wrap’ the axons and dendrites of the neural cells in the spinal cord.
Schwann cells form a sort of tube made up of spiraling layers of myelin around the largest fibers. Ependymal cells line the four brain cavities, or ventricles of the brain, and also the central canal of the spinal cord.
Perineural cells play a big role in getting nutrients to the neurons, in controlling the diffusion of ions which in turn effects impulse firing, in memory, and in conducting the direct currents that ‘regenerate’ different parts of the body.
Becker discovered all these things more than 35 years’ ago, back in the 1980s. But instead of eagerly starting more research into these findings, to see how they could be safely applied to improving human health - his funding was pulled, and his small lab was disbanded, due to lack of funds and political pressure.
We can't find a 'cure' for cancer, and other serious illnesses for as long as we continue to look in the wrong places for it.
As a parent, I often think how great it would be if I could just tell my kids all my mistakes, and learnings, and life experiences, and save them the trouble of going through so much trouble and pain themselves.
Save yourself the heartache, kid, and believe me when I tell you that you don't have to stress so much over your maths' exam! Save yourself a fortune, my daughter, and stop buying those junky bits of 'cute' pottery mass-produced in China for your room. They'll just sit there gathering dust for years, silently rebuking you for being dumb enough to buy them.
It doesn't matter what it is, from eating healthier, to getting enough sleep, to avoiding 'bad' friends, to making sensible decisions, I see that my kids normally have to learn things the hard way.
They have to see for themselves that wearing high heels gives them knee pain; and that staying up all night reading makes them knackered; and doing that extra bit of babysitting meant they didn't have time to really get all their homework done.
Apparently, there is no other way.
I'd pretty much got to that conclusion myself, but then I read something in this book called 'The language of life: how cells communicate in health and disease' which made me realise that actually, personal experience truly is the only thing that counts.
The author was writing about how the synapses in the brain are formed, and how 'superficial' experiences or learnings result in small, temporary, surface chemical changes in the brain; but how a powerfully-felt experience actually changes the physical cell-structure of the brain.
When something is experienced first-hand as 'good' or 'bad', that experience is literally hard-wired into the brain, so the person won't forget it. Of course, this can also be why it's so hard for addicts to get away from their drug of choice, or why it's so hard to walk away from the Black Forest Gateau, or why it can be so difficult to stop watching movies, or spending so much time on Facebook.
At some cellular level, these things have been (deceivingly…) coded as 'good' and 'enjoyable'. Our body thinks they're great; our soul knows better, and our minds are caught in the middle, trying to work out which one to listen to.
This is also why it can be so hard to break a habit, and why having good habits gets most of the job done, for you. It's literally hard-wired in.
What does all this mean, for you, for me, for our kids?
The first thing I'm taking away from it is that I really need to get God involved in breaking my old bad habits, and installing new ones. It's not just a simple matter of 'will power', whatever anyone may say. My job is to ask G-d to help me change, and then stop beating myself up if it doesn't happen overnight.
Next, I realised how important it is to let kids make their own mistakes, and experience their own consequences, from as young an age as possible. If they get the message when they're young that acting like a jerk is a bad thing; or that wasting all their money on candy is dumb; or that leaving all their homework until 10 minutes before school is extremely stressful, that message will get hard-wired in, and save them so much grief when they're adults.
I know, that's hard for us parents to do, isn't it? I literally bite my tongue, sometimes, when I can see the looming negative consequence of one of my child's immature decisions. If I tell them, they won't get it. If I enable them to experience it themselves, they'll own that wisdom forever, and it will stand them in good stead.
The last thing I realised was how important it is to give our kids as many good habits as we can, when they're young. That doesn't mean nagging them to bentch or wash - again, I learned the hard way that saying the grace after meals was directly linked to making a living, and I expect they will have to do it that way, too.
But it means helping them to develop healthy accountability, and self-awareness, and compassion and empathy for others. It means encouraging them to try things, even if they're going to end in failure. And it means trusting G-d to send them whatever experiences they need, even at a young age, to gently hardwire in the notion that with G-d in the picture, it will be 'good' however it turns out in real life - and vice-versa.