by Lionel Milgrom
March 19th 1999
from TWM Website
Can molecules communicate with
each other, exchanging information without being in physical contact? French
but his scientific peers are still skeptical.
His downfall began in 1988 when he infuriated the scientific community with experimental results which he took as evidence to suggest that water has a memory. His ideas were seized upon by homeopaths keen to find support for their theories on highly diluted medicines, but were condemned by scientific purists. Now, Benveniste believes he has evidence to suggest that it may one day be possible to transmit the curative power of life-saving drugs around the world - via the Internet.
Nevertheless, he began his campaign last week when he announced the latest research to come out of his Digital Biology Laboratory near Paris, to a packed audience of scientists at the Pippard Lecture Theatre at Cambridge University’s Cavendish Physics Laboratory.
Benveniste suggested that the specific effects
of biologically active molecules such as adrenalin, nicotine and caffeine,
and the immunological signatures of viruses and bacteria, can be recorded
and digitized using a computer sound-card. A keystroke later, and these
signals can be winging their way across the globe, courtesy of the Internet.
Biological systems far away from their activating molecules can then - he
suggested - be triggered simply by playing back the recordings.
Benveniste started by asking some apparently childish questions. If molecules could talk, what would they sound like? More specifically, can we eavesdrop on their conversations, record them, and play them back?
The answer to these last three questions is, according to Benveniste, a resounding "Oui!" He further suggested that these "recordings" can make molecules respond in the same way as they do when they react.
Contradicting the way biologists think biochemical reactions occur, he claims molecules do not have to be in close proximity to affect each other.
For example, anger produces adrenalin.
When adrenalin molecules bind to their receptor sites, they set off a string of biological events that, among other things, make blood vessels contract. Biologists say that adrenalin is acting as a molecular signaling device but, Benveniste asks, what is the real nature of the signal? And how come the adrenalin molecules specifically target their receptors and no others, at incredible speed?
According to Benveniste, if the cause of such biochemical events were simply due to
random collisions between adrenalin molecules and their receptors (the
currently accepted theory of molecular signaling), then it should take
longer than it does to get angry.
With an international group of scientists from Canada, France, Israel and Italy, Benveniste had claimed that vigorously shaking water solutions of an antibody could evoke a biological response, even when that antibody was diluted out of existence.
Non-agitated solutions produced little or no effect. Nature said that the
results of the experiment that produced the "ghostly antibodies" were,
frankly, unbelievable. The journal itself came in for criticism for
publishing the paper in the first place.
How, they asked, can a biological system respond to an antigen when no molecules of it can be detected in solution?
It goes against the accepted "lock-and-key" principle,
which states that molecules must be in contact and structurally match before
information can be exchanged. Such thinking has dominated the biological
sciences for more than four decades, and is itself rooted in the views of
the 17th-century French philosopher Rene Descartes.
Undeterred, he and his now-depleted research team somehow continued to investigate the biological effects of agitated, highly dilute solutions. The latest results are, for biologists, even more incredible than those in the 1988 Nature paper.
Physicists, however, should have less of a
problem as their discipline is based on fields (eg gravitational,
electromagnetic) which have well-established long-range effects. If Benveniste’s claims prove to be true - which is far from certain - they
could have profound consequences, not least for medical diagnostics.
Eventually, when they are the same, the beat disappears. This is the way
musicians tune their instruments, and Benveniste uses the analogy to explain
his water-memory theory. Thus, all molecules are made from atoms which are
constantly vibrating and emitting infrared radiation in a highly complex
manner. These infrared vibrations have been detected for years by
scientists, and are a vital part of their armory of methods for identifying
This is the
molecular signal that Benveniste detects and records.
the dial a little, and you’re listening to Radio 1: different tuning,
The structural modifications "detune" the
molecule to its receptor. What is more, and just like radio sets and
receivers, the molecules do not have to be
close together for communication to take place.
Benveniste explains this by
pointing out that all biological reactions occur in water. The water
molecules completely surround every other molecule placed among them. A
single protein molecule, for example, will have a fan club of at least
10,000 admiring water molecules. And they are not just hangers-on. Benveniste believes they are the agents that in fact relay and amplify the
biological signal coming from the original molecule.
And just as Pavarotti or Elton John is on the CD only as a "memory", so water can memorize and amplify the signals of molecules that have been dissolved and diluted out of existence.
The molecules do not have to be there, only their
"imprint" on the solution in which they are dissolved.
Agitation makes the
The effect is measured on a "biological system" such as a piece of living tissue.
Benveniste claims, for instance, that the signal from molecules of heparin - a component of the blood-clotting system - slows down coagulation of blood when transmitted over the Internet from a laboratory in Europe to another in the US.
If true, it will undoubtedly earn
prize. If not, he will receive only more scorn.
So far this has not been done to
the satisfaction of his many detractors.