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Jeff Sutherland

Twice the Energy with Half the Stress

Nature News Alert: EM pulses cause cancer cell death, fat cell destruction, etc.

Nanopulses can make cells commit suicide.

Photo by SPL. Nature, 16 Mar 2004

Rifers have been reporting on this since the 1920’s. Now even MIT is starting to get with the program studying how electromagnetic pulses can cause cancer cell apoptosis (cell death). Nature is saying this was discovered in the late 1990s! Duh!

This is the normal scientific process. First you are a kook. Then when others try it and it works, they say it couldn’t possibly work because there is no theoretical explanation of how it could work (i.e. they are ignorant and don’t want to admit it). Then a couple of leading labs start publishing on it and people claim they discovered it first, even though they are 80 years late! Well, the next step is mainstream science where they will say we knew it all along, it’s not even news, it is NIH policy. From that point, it will take at least 17 years to find its way into the practice of the average physician. So we are still at least 20 years away from widespread application of electromagnetic replacements for antibiotics, chemotherapy, radiation, and even many surgical procedures like fat deposit removal, the latest rage at Mass. General Hospital here in Boston.

Ultra-fast shocks scramble cells: Powerful electrical pulses might zap tumours.

Helen Pearson, Nature Science Update, 16 Mar 2004

Using very short, very powerful electric shocks, researchers are developing a way to jolt cancer cells into committing suicide, or healthy cells into healing wounds…

Longer shocks blow a cell apart, but researchers have found that the fleeting nanopulses leave the cell membrane unaffected while mixing up its insides. Now they are working out how to vary the timing and intensity of the shocks to make cells behave in specific ways…

Schoenbach and his colleagues were the first to recognise that you could use high-power, brief shocks to manipulate cells in other ways. Working with electrical engineers in the late 1990s, they discovered that such pulses fry bacteria and sterilize contaminated water.

One of the most significant discoveries was that nanopulses make mammalian cells commit suicide, rather than blowing them up. This is a relatively gentle way of killing, because scavenger cells come and swallow the debris. By contrast, long electric shocks explode cells and liberate toxic molecules that cause inflammation and pain.

For this reason, researchers hope to use nanopulses to kill cancer cells while leaving healthy tissue intact. Schoenbach’s team has already shown that the pulses can shrink mouse tumours by over 50%, and is working on catheters or non-invasive ways to deliver the shocks to the body.

Quite how nanopulses trigger cell suicide still leaves scientists scratching their heads. One idea is that the shock flips molecules in the cell membrane from the inside to the outside, which tells surrounding cells of their imminent death. “It says ‘get rid of me,'” says Thomas Vernier, who is studying the technique at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

However they work, the nanopulses are prompting a flurry of ideas for their use. They might replace liposuction as a way to demolish unwanted flab, or blast away the fatty plaques that cause heart disease. “It is like asking what to do with a newborn baby,” says Weaver. “Our speculations probably will not pick up the most important things.”