Eastern Medicine and Western Science

Astonishing advances in physics and cell biology have recently toppled the philosophical underpinnings of conventional biomedicine. A new energy-based vitalistic philosophy emphasizing the organizing role of body, mind and spirit is arising from the ashes of materialistic science.

This philosophical phoenix wears the cloak of Oriental Medicine. Once thought to be in the domain of genes, the control of anatomy, physiology and behavior are now causally linked to the energy fields and environment.

Cutting edge research in cell biology revealing the interface between environmental “signals” and cell control mechanisms provides scientific insight into the role and effectiveness of Oriental medicine in the unfoldment of our lives.

The outline focuses on the biology of how environment, and our perception of environment, regulates behavior, selects genes and even contributes to the rewriting of our genetic code. The described cellular mechanisms include master switches through which our thoughts, attitudes and beliefs create the conditions of our body and of our place.

By Way of Introduction… A Cosmic Joke

There is a “thing” I refer to as Universe Humor, others may refer to it as a Cosmic Joke. There have been times in all of our lives when we thought we knew exactly how some event or incident was going to turn out. We could be so convinced that we “knew” what was going to happen, that we would have bet the family farm and the kitchen sink on the outcome of the event. It is at moments like this, when the Universe surprises us by taking a left turn instead of a right.

While in most cases such a turn of events may evoke anger, disappointment or disillusion, I usually stand there, shaking my head in profound awe of the perverse nature of Universe Humor. Here I thought I knew exactly how things would turn out and then find myself surprised, the wind knocked out of me. In wonder, I must rethink and reconsider my beliefs that led me to that faulty conclusion.

When Universe Humor hits an individual, recognition of their astonishing lack of awareness may provoke a profound change in their life. Individuals must reconsider their beliefs in order to accommodate the surprising observations.

The course of human history is radically altered when Universe Humor undermines a “core belief” that is part of the fabric of society. Consider how the course of human history changed when the belief that the world was flat was challenged by the circumnavigation of the globe?

In 1893, the chairman of physics at Harvard University boasted that science had established the fact that the universe was a matter machine, comprised of physical atoms, which fully obeyed the laws of Newtonian Mechanics. Within two years of that pronouncement, the discovery of subatomic particles, X-rays and radioactivity toppled the concept of a matter-only universe. Within ten years it was discovered that the universe was actually made of energy and its expression could be described by Quantum Mechanics. That little piece of Universe Humor profoundly altered the course of civilization, taking us from steam engines to rocket ships, from telegraphs to computers.

Well… the cosmic prankster has struck again!

As it has done a few times in the past, this expression of Universe Humor contradicts a basic belief that is foundational to Western civilization. The joke is embodied in the results of the Human Genome Project. In all the hoopla over the sequencing of the human genetic code, we got caught up in the brilliant technological feat and have not focused on the “meaning” of the results.

One of the most important and fundamental core beliefs in conventional biology concerns the notion of genetic determinism, the belief that genes define an organisms traits and characters. General textbooks and biology courses convey the conventional belief that DNA genes “control” biological expression. Primarily, genes are blueprints encoding the structure of proteins, the molecular “parts” that comprise the cell. It was thought that there was one gene to code for each of the approximately 100,000 proteins that make up our bodies.

Our belief in “genetically-controlled” organisms also implies the existence of a subset of genes that would “program” the activity of other genes. These regulatory genes would encode information about physical patterns that provide for specific anatomies, the structures that characterize each cell type (muscle versus bone) or organism (a chimp from a human).

In addition, another subset of genes has been inferred that would “control” specific behavioral patterns. These regulatory genes orchestrate other genes whose actions contribute to the expression of such traits as awareness, emotion, and intelligence.

Accordingly, our belief in genetic determinacy implies the “complexity” (evolutionary stature) of an organism would be proportional to the number of genes it possessed. In considering the bare number of genes needed to make a human: we would start with a base number of over 130,000 genes, one for each of the approximately 100,000 proteins found in a human. Then we include the estimated 30,000 regulatory genes needed to provide for the complexity of patterns expressed in our anatomy, physiology and behavior. For simplicity, lets round off the number of human genes to an even 100,000.

Here’s where the joke comes in… the results of the Genome Project reveal that there are only about 26,000 genes that make a human. Two thirds of the anticipated genes do not exist! How can we account for the complexity of a genetically controlled human, when there are not even nearly enough genes to code just for the proteins?

More humiliating to our belief in genetic determinacy is the fact that there is not much difference in the total number of genes among humans and some of the most primitive organisms on the planet. Recently, biologists completed mapping the genomes of two of the most studied animal models in genetic research, the fruit fly and a microscopic worm-like organism (Caenorhabditis elegans).

The primitive Caenorhabditis worm served as a perfect model to study the role of genes in development and behavior. This rapidly growing and reproducing primitive organism has a precisely patterned body comprised of exactly 969 cells, a simple brain of about 302 ordered cells, it expresses a unique repertoire of behaviors, and most importantly, it is amenable to genetic experimentation. The Caenorhabditis genome is comprised of 18,000 genes. Essentially, the human genome is only about one third larger than this lowly, spineless, microscopic worm.

Obviously, the complexity of organisms is not evident in the number of genes. For example, the fruit fly genome was recently defined to consist of 13,000 genes. The fruit fly is profoundly more complex in structure and behavior than the microscopic worm but has 5000 fewer genes!!

The Human Genome Project was an applied effort dedicated to deciphering human genetic code, a gateway that would enable us to understand the nature of how genes “control” biology. It was assumed that an awareness of the human genetic code mechanisms would enable scientists to create a Mozart or another Einstein.

The “failure” of the genome results to conform to our expectations reveals that our expectations are inaccurate. Our “belief” in genetic determinism is fundamentally… flawed!

We cannot truly attribute our lives to be the consequence of genetic “programming.” We are forced to reconsider the question: “From whence do we acquire our biological complexity?” The following is a quote from the special edition of the prestigious journal Nature reporting the conclusions of the Human Genome project.

In a commentary on the results of the study, David Baltimore, one of the world’s most prominent geneticists, addresses this issue of complexity: “But unless the human genome contains a lot of genes that are opaque to our computers, it is clear that we do not gain our undoubted complexity over worms and plants by using more genes. Understanding what does give us our complexity—our enormous behavioral repertoire, ability to produce conscious action, remarkable physical coordination, precisely tuned alterations in response to external variations of the environment, learning, memory…need I go on?—remains a challenge for the future.” (Nature 409:816, 2001)

Scientists have continuously tried to convince us that our biological fates are written in our genes. In the face of that belief, the Universe humors us with a cosmic joke: the “control” of life is not in the genes; it is in the organization and activation of the genes.

Over the last number of years, science and the press’ emphasis on the “power” of genes has overshadowed the brilliant work of many biologists that reveal a different understanding. Rather than genes “controlling” biology, it is now recognized that environment, and more specifically, our perception of the environment, profoundly influences our structure, behavior and gene activity.

An understanding of the newly described cell-control mechanisms will cause as profound a shift in biological belief as the quantum revolution caused in physics. Though mass consciousness is still imbued with the belief that the character of our lives is controlled by genes, a radically new understanding is unfolding at the leading edge of science. The strength in the emerging new biological model is that it unifies the basic philosophies of conventional medicine, Oriental medicine, and spiritual healing.

Eastern Philosophy Meets Conventional Science

The foundation key behind the historic success of Oriental medicine has been the recognition and reliance upon energy, an innate intelligence, which imbues all living organisms. This “organizing” factor is often represented as an immaterial vitalism that influences the shape and health of the body. Vitalistic philosophies contended that some vital factor, as distinct from physiochemical factors, was involved with “controlling” the body’s structure and function.

By dictionary definition, vitalism is “the doctrine that the processes of life are not explainable by the laws of physics and chemistry alone and that life is in some part self-determining.”

Vitalistic philosophy clashes with the materialistic philosophy of conventional allopathic (drug-related) medicine. Philosophical “truths” in Western civilization are validated through a process employing scientific methodology. “Truths” related to health science, until recently, have only been generated through research conducted by organismal, cellular, and molecular biologists, biochemists, pharmacologists, and medical doctors.

Consequently, Oriental medicine has been at a distinct disadvantage in acquiring recognition as a valid healing art. However, the leading edge of cellular and molecular biology research is heralding a radical departure from its traditional theories and is in turn, creating a new philosophy

Vitalism, by functional definition, is a metaphysical belief and is not to be confused with “science.” Though modern medicine considers complementary healing modalities as “unscientific,” it has not been able to ignore the large number of their patients that have been increasingly satisfied with the care provided by alternative practitioners.

The big question: Is there real “science” behind the practice of Oriental medicine?

The answer is, unequivocally, YES!

The first and surprising step in recognizing the science of Oriental Medicine is in becoming aware of a more important fact: traditional biomedical science has been antiquated for over 75 years.

Vitalism was first defined in 1822. There were indeed “invisible” factors affecting physical matter that were “beyond the realms of physics and chemistry.” At that time, the existence and role of electromagnetic forces were not even part of science.

Physics is the primary science in that it defines the “mechanisms” of how the universe works. Up through 1920’s, physics operated under Newtonian principles, which emphasized a mechanical universe made out of matter. In 1925, conventional physics was turned upon its ear when the laws of quantum mechanics replaced the laws of Newtonian mechanics.

In the quantum universe, physicists recognized that matter was made out of intangible energy. Physicists and chemists restructured their scientific awareness to accommodate an “energy” based universe. In contrast, the biosciences have never applied the “energetic” principles of a quantum universe. To this day, biomedical sciences still use out-dated Newtonian physics to describe the “mechanisms” of life. In failing to accommodate quantum principles, traditional medical science has remained in the materialistic “dark ages” and is most definitely out of date!

When the principles of quantum theory are incorporated into traditional biology, formerly unexplainable phenomena that have been relegated to the realm of “metaphysics” now exhibit a scientific foundation. This applies to the concept of vitalism, which in a revised biology acquire scientific validation in an area that may best be described as quantum biophysics.

A new, revisionist view of traditional life sciences is revealed when the principles of quantum physics are integrated with the science of cell biology. In the new awareness, vitalism can be described in terms of molecular information processing systems that convert “environmental” signals into biological behavior. At the human level, this processing is attributed to the role of the brain.

At the cellular level, each cell also possesses a “brain” equivalent that mediates cell behavior and physiologic activities. The new biology reveals that the single nucleated (eukaryotic) cell, like the amoeba, represents the most advanced “single” life form on this planet. The cell is the fundamental “unit” of intelligence and humans, comprised of approximately 70 trillion eukaryotic cells, exhibit what might most correctly be defined as “collective amoebic consciousness.”

By studying how the single cell reads its environment, processes the information, consults with its memory and then expresses a specific behavior, we are provided with amazing insight into the foundation of how these same processes are manifested in the human body.

The underlying theme of biological evolution is the expansion of awareness that ultimately led to human consciousness. The evolution of awareness is physically correlated with the increased developmental expression of the nervous system.

In biological organisms, awareness is a quality predicated upon perception. In the “new” biology (described below), leading edge research in cell biology identifies the basic element of awareness as a percept, a single physical, measurable unit of perception.

Evolution is the physical consequence of expanding awareness by increasing the population of awareness-providing percept units. Structuring the increase in percept units implies the necessity of using fractal geometry. Geometry, the mapping of how “things” fit together, is the math that must be used to map the nature of evolution. Inherent in fractal mathematics is the fact that self-similar patterns are iterated (repeated) at higher and lower levels of the structure.

The inherent fractal patterns common among cells, humans and societies offers surprising insight into the past and future of evolution. A theory of evolution based upon fractal geometry offers a more appropriate understanding of evolution than the destructive, and now defunct, Darwinian theory.

The human genome results are clearly instigating an upheaval in conventional thought among the allopathic ranks. The interesting nature of these new considerations is that it is bringing conventional biomedicine into closer alliance with complementary, energy-based healing modalities.

The Evolving Philosophy—Part I

One of the primary reasons behind the enduring rift between conventional medical science and Oriental medicine is the contrasting nature of their basic philosophies. Philosophical “truths” in Western civilization are validated through a process employing scientific methodology.

“Truths” related to health science, until recently, have only been generated through research conducted by organismal, cellular and molecular biologists, biochemists, pharmacologists and medical doctors. Consequently, Oriental medicine has been at a distinct disadvantage in acquiring recognition as a valid healing art. However, the leading edge of cellular and molecular biology research is heralding a radical departure from its traditional theories and is in turn, creating a new philosophy.

The mission statement of Modern Science was defined by English philosopher Francis Bacon and adopted shortly after the Scientific Revolution (1543). Accordingly, science’s purpose was to “control and dominate Nature.” The primary purpose of scientific inquiry was to gain an understanding of the “natural laws” of bodily action. Through this process, it was expected that man would obtain mastery over Nature.

Before humans would be able to “control” Nature, it was first necessary to identify what “controls” the expression of a living organism. Western civilization has focused its attention on two mutually exclusive sources of this “control.” Control from without and control from within.

These two discordant philosophies were first elaborated during the Golden Age of Greece. Plato divided humans into two parts: body and soul. Soul is generally regarded as an entity related to but distinguishable from the body--the spiritual part of human beings that animates their physical existence and survives death. The soul, often referred to as the psyche, spirit, or life force, represents an externalized vitalizing force that activates the human body.

In contrast, followers of Democritus, called atomists, believed that living organisms were “machine-like” structures made out of atoms. Accordingly, the character and quality of life was controlled by the interaction of the physical atoms that comprised the body. Atomists were “materialists” that believed life was controlled by the chemistry within.

Consequently, atomists rejected all supernatural sanctions of human behavior. Additionally, the atomist’s perception of a machine-like quality to life led to the concept of healing as representing a “mechanistic” process.

The debate over whether life is controlled by spiritual or material forces peaked in the nineteenth century. By this time, scientists endorsing “spiritual” control began to refer to themselves as “vitalists.” Vitalists contended that some vital factor, as distinct from physiochemical factors, was involved with “controlling” the body’s structure and function.

Since the definition of vitalism emphasizes that its character is beyond the laws of physics (measurement), vitalistic mechanisms were outside of the defined parameters of modern science. In spite of its metaphysical nature, vitalism was still endorsed by many traditional nineteenth century scientists.

The support for vitalism was soundly shaken in 1859 when Charles Darwin published his Origin of Species. In his treatise on evolution theory, Darwin emphasized that internalized “hereditary factors” (the existence of genes had not yet been recognized) were responsible for controlling the character of evolving species. Within a decade of its presentation, the majority of conventional scientists endorsed Darwinian theory.

Darwin’s theory of evolution denied the role of spirit or life force in the unfoldment of life on this planet. Consequently, scientists myopically focused on the search for the internalized material elements that “controlled” biological organisms.

Ever since the nature of DNA had been revealed, biomedical science has been grounded in the belief that genes regulate the structure, function and health of an organism. This has led to the concept of the Primacy of DNA, the belief that genes control physical and behavioral traits. Scientists took a leap to the next level and subsequently evolved the idea of genetic determinism, the notion that our health and fate are “predetermined” in our heredity.

However, profound philosophical changes are in the air. Leading edge research in cellular and molecular biology is currently offering a radically new understanding of the mechanisms that “control” life and evolution.

These new findings will inevitably integrate and unify the truths of both biomedical scientists and the practitioners of complementary medicine.

Conventional medical research has emphasized that genes are the responsible elements “controlling” health and disease. It is implied in the Primacy of DNA dogma that genes function as self-regulatory elements. Fundamental to this assumed truth is the requirement that genes must be capable of “controlling” their own expression. By definition, genes must be able to switch themselves on and off, as suggested in the concept of a cancer gene “turning itself on.”

However, the notion of the Primacy of DNA has been soundly challenged by current research that reveals that the existence of a self-regulatory property for genes is a patently incorrect assumption.

An important article by H. F. Nijhout (Metaphors and the Role of Genes in Development, BioEssays 12:441, 1990) describes how concepts concerning genetic “controls” and “programs” were originally conceived as a metaphor to help define and direct avenues of research. Widespread repetition of this compelling hypothesis over time has resulted in the “metaphor of the model” becoming the “truth of the mechanism,” despite the absence of substantiative supporting evidence.

Nijhout elegantly and succinctly redefined the truth as follows, “When a gene product is needed, a signal from its environment, not a self-emergent property of the gene itself, activates expression of that gene (emphasis mine).” Simply stated, a gene ca not turn itself on or off, it is dependent upon a signal from its environment to control its expression. Genes are indeed involved with the structure and behavior of an organism, however they are not the source of “control.” biological expression.

Gene expression is under the influence of specialized proteins referred to as regulatory proteins.

Regulatory proteins bind to DNA and mask the activity of genes. In order to activate a specific gene, its regulatory proteins must be removed from the DNA strand. The binding and release of DNA regulatory proteins is controlled by “environmental” signals. Rather than recognizing the Primacy of DNA, it is more correct to acknowledge the Primacy of the Environment as causal in shaping

The fact that the cell’s nucleus and its enclosed genes do not represent the controlling element or “brain” of the cell is easily verified in studies wherein the cell is structurally or functionally enucleated. Cells in such experiments continue to express complex behavioral repertoires and purposeful interactions with their environment and may survive for months despite the absence of functional genes. Consequently, genes cannot be invoked to be the source of “control” in regulating cell behavior.

Even though genes are not self-regulating, they do encode the characteristics of our physical body. All of our genes are derived from parental DNA; therefore it could still be argued that our expression (physiology, health, behavior) is “predetermined” by our genetic heritage. Even that assumption has now gone by the wayside. In 1988, geneticist John Cairns published what has since become a revolutionary paper entitled On the Origin Of Mutants (Nature 335:142, 1988). Cairns recognized that gene mutations were not solely the result of random chemical events as is currently perceived.

Cairns placed bacteria, possessing a defective gene for the enzyme lactase, in Petri dishes that contained only lactose as a food source. The mutant bacteria were not able to metabolize the substrate. After a short period, the stressed, non-replicating bacteria began to thrive and proliferate. Upon examination, it was found that the bacteria specifically mutated the unresponsive lactase gene and repaired its function.

Cairn’s research revealed that, in response to environmental stresses, organism’s actively induce genetic mutations in selected genes in an effort to survive.

These mutations would represent mechanical “adaptations” that are induced by the organism’s response to life experiences.

Traditional geneticists have vehemently challenged Cairns’ results. However, a molecular mechanism has been revealed that supports his observations (Harris, et al., Recombination in Adaptive Mutation, Science 264:258, 1994). This latter publication reveals that organisms as primitive as bacteria contain “genetic engineering genes.”

Organisms can actively access this newly identified class of genes to selectively mutate their existing genomes.

Through successful “adaptive” mutations of selected genes, organisms are able to create new proteins, whose altered structures or functions may afford a better opportunity in surviving stressful environments.

Based upon this new perspective, David Thaler published an important revisionist article entitled The Evolution of Genetic Intelligence (Science 264:224, 1994). Thaler’s new perspective recognizes that biological expression is actively defined by the individual’s perception of their life experiences. Thaler emphasizes the significance of perception, not only in its ability to regulate the body’s expression by dynamically switching gene programs, but also in its ability to induce the “rewriting” of existing gene programs in order to better adapt to environmental stresses.

When put into perspective, the newly emerging view of conventional biomedicine reveals a profound change in fundamental beliefs. The Primacy of DNA is giving way to the Primacy of the Environment. Essentially, conventional science has shifted the source of intelligent control from the internalized genes to the externalized environmental “signals.”

In addition, it has been demonstrated that in response to life experiences, the organism may actively alter “innate” gene programs as a means of mechanical adaptation to perceived environmental conditions. Misperceptions derived from faulty education can bias the interpretation of environmental signals. Consequently, the “educated-brain” (subconscious programs) may interfere with our own innate intelligence by selecting inappropriate gene programs, a process that can produce dis-ease.

Conventional medicine is now recognizing that subconscious “beliefs” may also induce a rewriting (mutation) of innate gene programs. Consequently, a perceptual bias by a mis-educated mind may lead to genetic dysfunction and cancer.

The Evolving Philosophy—Part II

Over the last eighty years biologists have obviously made great strides in understanding the “mechanisms” of life. Currently, conventional biology recognizes that the physical character and behavior of an organism is defined by its protein building blocks. Since the nature of proteins is “programmed” in DNA, medical science recognizes the following hierarchy in regard to information flow in living systems: DNA>RNA>Protein.

As we approach the new millennium, leading edge cell research now reveals a profoundly different story. The primary difference concerns the fact that genes are not self-emergent.1 This means that genes are unable to turn “themselves” on and off, genes can not “control” their own expression. Obviously, this challenges the concept that genes “determine” our character.

How then are genes controlled?

Within the cell’s nucleus, DNA (gene) molecules are ensheathed within a layer of regulatory proteins. Concealed (i.e., protein-encased) genes are inactive. Removing the protein “sleeve” exposes the gene and allows for its activation. The binding and release of regulatory protein is controlled by “environmental signals.”2,3 Consequently, active “control” of cell expression is in the hands of the environment and is not in the domain of the genes.

In contrast to genetic regulation, the “revised” version of information flow reveals that environment represents the prime source of control.2

Environment> Regulatory Protein> DNA> RNA> Protein

The processing of environmental information and its translation into biological behavior is carried out by the cell membrane, the “skin” of the cell.4,5 The membrane separates the external non-self environment from the internal self, the cytoplasm. For the following discussion refer to the illustration below.

The cell’s INPUT devices are the protein receptors that extend from both of the cell membrane’s surfaces. Receptors facing inwards “read” the status of the cytoplasm’s environmental conditions. These receptors receive information concerning cytoplasmic pH, salt balance, membrane potential, the availability of metabolites and energy molecules and other parameters related to the cell’s physiology.

Protein receptors displayed on the outer surface of the membrane provide the cell with awareness of the external environment.

Cells use information derived from external receptors to “navigate” through their world. Internal membrane receptors are concerned with visceral needs, externally deployed receptors primarily regulate somatic behaviors. Consequently, information of the external environmental profoundly influences the cell’s cytoskeleton and behavior.

To PROCESS the environmental information (i.e., convert signals into biological responses), “activated” receptors couple with complementary effector proteins. The activity of membrane effector proteins, which include ion channels, enzymes and components of the cytoskeleton, is controlled by receptor proteins. 6

OUPTUT behaviors are regulated by activated effector proteins.

Effector proteins primarily serve as “switches” or “second messengers” that turn on or off more complex protein pathways deployed within the cell. Effector proteins regulate cytoplasmic pathways, which include motility, digestion, excretion, and respiration among others.

The MEMORY system of the cell, it’s genes, are also controlled by the membrane.

Sometimes cells receive environmental signals necessitating specific responses, however, the cell may not have the necessary proteins in the cytoplasm to enact the required behavior. In this case, activated receptor-effector protein complexes are able to target the regulatory proteins that mask specific genes.

These membrane “messengers,” known as transcription factors, alter the binding of regulatory proteins causing them to detach from the DNA, exposing specific genes that need to be read. 1,2 This is how “environmental signals” control gene expression. As the cell experiences new environments, it is capable of dynamically adjusting its genetic readout to accommodate any environmental exigencies. Consequently, the structural and behavioral expression of the cell is a reflection of the organism’s environment.

The primal role of “environment” in controlling gene expression is revealed in recent studies of newly discovered stem cells. Stem cells, akin to multipotential embryonic cells, proliferate forming large colonies of undifferentiated cells. The developmental destiny of stem cell progeny can be experimentally “controlled” by regulating their environment. Environmental signals activate stem cell transcription factors, which in turn select specific gene programs controlling the differentiation of these cells.6,7

Genes are coded “programs” that enable the organism as an individual, and the species as a whole, to survive.

Gene programs can be subdivided into two functional groups. One group, representing “growth” mechanisms, is expressly designed to provide for the physical construction and physiologic maintenance of the body.

However, an organism possessing only “growth” mechanisms would most likely be called “food,” and would soon become extinct. The second group of genes that code for “protection” programs manages environmental threats. These genes provide for physical mechanisms and behaviors that are deployed in life-threatening situations. 8

Survival = Growth Programs + Protection Programs

Protection behaviors do not provide growth, and visa-versa. Both growth and protection behaviors require an energy expenditure on the part of the organism. An individual’s ability to grow and reproduce is ultimately based upon the amount of energy available to support those processes. However, their ability to protect themselves is also dependent upon the same energy source.

Organisms engaging in protection behaviors utilize energy from their reserves, leaving less energy for growth processes. Under extreme environmental stress, protection demands may deplete the energy budget to the extent that the organism dies from an inability to sustain normal metabolic functions. In simple economics, survival is inversely related to the need for protection. More protection equates to less growth.

Survival = Growth & Protection

Growth behaviors are associated with the character of attraction. Organisms are “attracted” toward elements of the environment that support their life (e.g., food, water, air and mates).

In contrast, protective behaviors are most frequently associated with repulsion. Protection responses to threatening stimuli are characterized by a “posture” that reflects an avoidance reaction. Growth and protective behaviors can readily be distinguished by observing the cell’s motility.

Cells expressing growth move toward (attraction) life-sustaining environmental stimuli. In contrast, cells expressing protection move away from (repulsion) life-threatening stimuli.

The behavior of single-celled organisms appears “digital,” they either move toward positive (+) stimuli or away from negative (-) stimuli.

Recent studies on molecular control mechanisms support this “digital” nature of regulating behavior. It has been recognized that cells possess “gang” switches that collectively shunt growth pathways into protection behaviors in response to environmental stress. 9,10,11 Growth and protection appear to be mutually exclusive behaviors in single cells; a cell can not be in growth and protection at the same time. Simply, a cell cannot move forwards and backwards simultaneously.

The dynamic interaction between environmental signals and growth-protection genes evolved an innate intelligence that enabled cells to “read” environmental signals and invoke appropriate survival mechanisms.

For the first three billion years of life, unicellular organisms solely inhabited the Earth. Each cell survived by employing individualized cellular innate intelligence.

Five hundred million years ago, single cells came together forming “colonies,” wherein cells could collectively share awareness of their environment. More awareness increases an organism’s chance at survival.

The first communities were just “loose associations” of cells with all individuals expressing the same functions. At any time, a single cell could leave the colony, divide and start a new one on its own. Original cell colonies contained as few as four and up to several hundred participating cells.

Multicellular communities necessitated a language of communication, for survival depends upon organization and coordination of community activities. In small groups of cells, coordinating communications consisted of the first neurotransmitters, as well as vibrational frequencies, that were freely exchanged among the closely-knit cells.12

As communal intelligence mechanisms evolved, successful colonies could support larger cell populations. A point came wherein colonies were so physically large that it was inefficient for all cells to do the same “work.” Larger communities began to subdivide survival-related labors among their population. This resulted in differentiation, a process wherein cells began to express specialized functions such as skin, bone, and nerve.

In physically large cell communities, most of the constituent cells are not in direct contact with the environment. Out of necessity, a subset of the cellular population became specialized in reading the environment and relaying their “perceptions” to cells internalized within the community. These information-handling cells became the organism’s nervous system.

Today, individual cellular communities may be comprised of trillions of cells. For example, human beings represent a social community of from 50 to 70 trillion cellular citizens.

Each human cell, like an amoeba, is a free-living entity, possessing Innate Intelligence and capable of appropriately responding to its “local” (i.e., tissue-specific) environment.

Through the action of the nervous system, each individual cell is also influenced by a much larger environment, that experienced by the whole organism.8

Your liver cell knows what’s going on in your liver, but through the nervous system, it also aware of what’s going on in your job or in your relationships.

As illustrated above, cells receive environmental signals via the central nervous system. In truth, cells receive a “perception” of the environment as interpreted by the subconscious mind.

Our nervous system tabulates approximately four billion environmental signals per second. Its primary role is to “read” the environment and make appropriate adjustments of growth and protection behaviors in order to ensure survival.

Memory systems evolved to facilitate information handling by storing previously “learned” experiences. Memories, which represent perceptions, are scored on the basis of whether they support growth or require a protection response.

As described above, the switch between growth and protection behaviors in unicellular organisms is “digital.” An individual cell moves either forward or backward. In organisms comprised of large numbers of cells, environmental signals can elicit a graded, “analog” response, wherein some cells are in growth and others are in protection.

The more relevant a stimulus is to the organism’s survival, the more polarized (either + or -) the resulting response. In humans, the extremes of the two polarities might appropriately be described as LOVE (+) and FEAR (-).

Love fuels growth. In contrast, fear stunts growth. In fact, someone can literally be “scared to death.”

Perception of environmental threats suppresses a cell’s growth activities and cause it to modify its cytoskeletal in adopting a protection “posture.” 8,13 Suppressing growth mechanisms conserves valuable energy needed in exercising life-saving protection behaviors.

In humans, a similar systemic switch functions to shut down our growth processes and prepares us for launching a protection response.14,15,16 This switching mechanism is represented by the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis.

The brain’s hypothalamus is instrumental in perceiving and assessing environmental signals. The perception of stress causes the hypothalamus to secrete corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), which in turn, activates certain pituitary cells to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) into the blood.

ACTH stimulates the adrenal gland to secrete adrenal hormones. These hormones constitute a “master switch” that regulates the systems growth-protection activity and routes vascular flow in preparation for “fight or flight” reactions. Firstly, adrenal hormones shunt blood from the viscera and redirect it toward the body’s somatic tissues, which adopt a protective posture. Reduced blood flow to the viscera, by definition, implies a suppression of growth-related behaviors.

Secondly, adrenal hormones directly inhibit the action of the immune system, the internal “protection” mechanism.17 The adrenal system’s function is to protect the body from threats it perceives in the external environment. Adrenal suppression of the high budget immune system makes more energy available to the somatic system. Consequently, the more stress one experiences, the more susceptible they will be to dis-ease.

Adrenal hormones also reroute brain blood flow by constricting forebrain blood vessels and dilating hindbrain vessels. Fight or flight situations are more successfully handled using hindbrain-mediated reflex behaviors. Constriction of forebrain blood flow suppresses “logic” or “executive reasoning,” since slower thinking responses ultimately jeopardize fight-flight reactions.18

Have you ever experienced a loss of intelligence in response to adrenal-mediated “exam stress?”

Collectively, HPA stress suppresses visceral-mediated growth, inhibits the immune system and stunts intelligence. The degree of expression of these influences is directly related to the level of perceived stress. The more stress, the less growth.

The interference with growth due to chronic stress leads to dis-ease, since the body is unable to adequately maintain its metabolic vitality.

In conclusion, conventional allopathic medicine is now beginning to realize that genetic expression, which influences the character of the body, is under the control of the environment. However, the growth or protection posture of an individual’s tissues and organs is mediated by the nervous system’s perception of its environment

Perceptions are beliefs. Misperceptions can inappropriately increase or decrease physiologic mechanisms and produce dis-ease. The role of perception and mind is now becoming a point of focus in allopathic healthcare, as they try to unravel the mysteries of the placebo effect and the role of pyschosomatic stress.20


Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D. 2004

For more information visit www.brucelipton.com
[author retains first rights].

1. Nijhout, H. F., “Metaphors and the Role of Genes in Development,” BioEssays 12 (9):441-446, 1990. 2. Lipton, B. H., “The Evolving Science of Chiropractic Philosophy,” Today’s Chiropractic pp.16-19, Sept/Oct 1998 3. Graves, B. J., “Inner Workings of a Transcription Factor Partnership,” Science 279:1000-1002, 1998. (How proteins turn on genes) 4. Unwin, N. and Henderson, R., “The Structure of Proteins in Biological Membranes,” Scientific American pp. 56-66, Oct. 1985. 5. Cornell, B. A., et al., “A Biosensor That uses Ion-Channel Switches,” Nature 387:580-584, 1997. 6. Pittenger, M. F., et al., “Multilineage potential of Adult Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells,” Science 284:143-147, 1999. 7. Bjornson, C. R. R., et al., “Turning Brain into Blood: A Hematopoetic Fate Adopted by Adult Neural Stem Cells In Vivo,” Science 283:534-537, 1999. 8. Lipton, B. H., Bensch, K. G., and Karasek, M., “Histamine-modulated transdifferentiation of dermal microvascular endothelial cells,” Experimental Cell Research 199:279-291, 1992. 9. Hannun, Y. A., “Functions of Ceramide in Coordinating Cellular Responses to Stress,” Science 274:1855-1859, 1996. 10. Hemmings, B. A., “Akt Signaling: Linking Membrane Events to Life and Death Decisions,” Science 275:628-630, 1997. 11. Raloff, J., “Sphinx of Fats,” Science News 151:342-343, 1997 12. Tsong, T. Y., “Deciphering the Language of Cells,” Trends in Biochemical Sciences 14:89-92, 1989. 13. Lipton, B., Bensch, K. G., and Karasek, M., “Microvessel endothelial cell transdifferentiation: Phenotypic characterization,” Differentiation 46:117-133, 1991. 14. Leutwyler, K., “Don’t Stress,” Scientific American pp. 29-30, Jan. 1998. 15. Mlot, C., “Probing the Biology of Emotion,” Science 280:1005-1007, 1998. 16. Sandman, C. A., et al., “Psychological Influences of Stress and HPA Regulation on the Human Fetus and Infant Birth Outcomes,” Annals of the NY Acad. of Sciences 739:198-210, 1994. 17. Pennis, E., “Tracing Molecules That Make The Brain-Body Connection,” Science 275: 930-931, 1997. (Regulation of immune system by stress) 18. Arnsten, A. F. T., “The Biology of Being Frazzled,” Science 280:1711, 1998. 19. Brown, W. A., “The Placebo Effect,” Scientific American pp. 90-95, January 1998

Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D
Book or Article Title: 
Eastern Medicine and Western Science: The Grand Convergence
Publication Date: 
Thursday, January 1, 2004