The magic of quantum coherence
In this blog I'll be making a bit of a departure from the nutrition/pharmacology I normally cover. I plan to introduce the quantum side of cell biology, known as quantum electrodynamic theory, into my work more and more as I continue to research it. The physics side of biology tends to provide less actionable insights than the chemistry, but I think it ties everything together nicely. I hope you all find this as interesting as I do.
Quantum biology is an emerging field focused on finding instances where the effects of quantum field theory actually have an impact on how biology functions. Originally I was skeptical of this field, and I'm sure some of my readers may be too. After a bit of digging however, I've found that there's actually many ways the two are connected. For a brief 10-15 minute introduction to quantum physics, watch this video. This is a good introduction to the quantum aspect of biology, which I'll be covering in this blog.
One of the reasons I think many people dismiss quantum biology is because one the most well known aspects of quantum physics is that particles such as protons or electrons don't really exist in one place until they're observed. Since cells are full of so many interacting molecules, this property obviously doesn't carry over to the macro scale we exist in. In cell biology things are measured easily, and exist more as defined objects than vague clouds of probability. That said, there are other aspects of quantum research that do have the potential to affect biology, such as proton/electron tunneling, or the behavior of matter more as a wave than a particle. If you read my blog on DHA you're actually already familiar with quantum biology.
Remember that DHA's carbon chain is made up of alternating single and double bonds? The double bonds are highly conductive, but the single bonds block conduction. Because of this based on standard cell physics DHA shouldn't be able to conduct electrons. However, we know that DHA is pivotal for conducting electrical impulses from light into the body, and facilitating conduction in the brain. This works through electron tunneling. The non-conductive gaps in DHA's structure are tight enough that electrons can “tunnel,” or spontaneously jump across. This allows the electrons excited by the light in our environment to be slowed down and channeled into our biology.
The wave-like properties of matter seen in quantum field theory (currently the most successful theory in physics) are a bit more complicated to explain, but still relevant for things like how energy actually works in a cell. Since reading the work of Gilbert Ling, which I discussed in my twitter thread The Truth About ATP, I've been very skeptical of the concept that ATP = energy taught by classical biology. Ling pointed out that if you do the math the ATP produced from our caloric intake can only add up to roughly 1/3,000th of the energy needed to run the cell on ATP alone. When the ATP model of energy was first proposed, many researchers disputed it, raising other issues, such as if ATP is broken apart there's no law in classical biophysics that would cause the energy to be directed towards any reaction specifically vs. just being dissipated as heat. The laws of quantum biophysics on the other hand actually do have the potential to explain such a system.
The explanation for how cellular energy is transferred that seems to hold up the best is based on the concept of quantum coherence. Put simply, quantum coherence occurs when the wave-like properties of a material are synchronized, so that it behaves in an extremely coherent state, almost like a physical manifestation of how light behaves in a laser. In such a state the properties of the material change, so that altering one part of it alters the whole. In the future it's speculated that the concept of quantum coherence may be used to create quantum supercomputers, as opposed to the more limited silicon based computers we use today. Perfect quantum coherence occurs in extreme states such as the supercooling of a gas down to near absolute zero, as in the Bose-Einstein condensate.
Obviously the temperature and variability in a cell makes creating perfect coherence impossible. However, it's been found by many biophysics researchers that cells use their own organic version of the same principles. One of the earliest examples of this that I've found is what's called Frohlich coherence, a concept created by the British physicist Herbert Frohlich. Frohlich coherence is the theory that cells create a state of synchronized (coherent) excitations that drive reactions and connectivity across the cell. This would allow cells to transfer energy as needed, and allow chemical reactions to take place regardless of immediate proximity. This may be a bit hard to wrap your head around, but let me explain.
In my opinion there are two major paradoxes in how cells function. By far the largest is the fact that cells resist entropy, the natural tendency of matter to fall into disorder and lose energy. By definition life exists in a state of anti-entropy. It grows, reproduces, and as I mentioned earlier, even produces more energy than it can physically consume. This seems like an impossible state according to standard physics. The second most interesting paradox I've found is the ability of reactions to pair up in the cell despite the two reactants not being in close proximity. The best example of this is the ability of DNA transcription proteins to locate and bind to particular strands of DNA out of the massive amount of free floating DNA in the nucleus. It's actually estimated that the average transcription protein is able to bind to DNA about 100x faster than should be possible based on standard physics (source here). This isn't the kind of random diffusion where two molecules just so happen to bump into each other and react. The protein and the DNA strand could be at opposite sides of the “pool” of DNA and they would still find each other with amazing speed and accuracy.
To explain these paradoxes, the cell must contain some sort of organization system with the ability to transmit both “information” and physical molecules across a distance. This idea makes a lot more sense when you look at the role water plays in the cell. In my threads on twitter I've often mentioned the work of Dr. Gerald Pollack on water (for those who are unfamiliar with it watch this). He found that when met with hydrophilic surfaces or certain electromagnetic frequencies, water would organize based on its hydrogen bond network. This basically turns water into a liquid crystal with the structured bond geometries of a crystal (think ice crystal geometry), but the ability to flow like a liquid. This results in a state halfway between a solid and a liquid, more like a gel, and enhances water's ability to hold charge and conduct electrons and protons.
Structured water also forms a fluid hydration shell around proteins that fill the cell, basically surrounding them with structured water hydrogen bonds. This hydration shell can extend many layers out of proteins, creating a sort of ripple effect, similar to if you put an object in a standing body of water and move it around gently. As the object moves, it creates waves extending out into the medium (water) that carry information about the object (its size, shape, etc). On a molecular level in the cell, this “ripple” also carries the quantum molecular resonance (vibration) of the protein AND information about its bond polarity, as structured water will change it's pole orientations around the protein structure, similar to a magnet moving in response to a magnetic field. Basically water acts as a medium for molecular information to be carried back and forth, linking together reactants across a distance, and creating an organized system of reactions and energy transfer.
This concept of water carrying the information necessary for reactions to take place can actually be traced back to Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, the Nobel prize-winning father of biochemistry. He famously called water “the matrix of life,” and believed that “surface” water is what enables the mutual attraction of molecules for reactions to take place. This concept later evolved into Frohlich coherence, which many more researchers have continued to expand on even further.
Now as I mentioned earlier, Frohlich coherence is not a perfect quantum condensate, since a strong condensate requires a number of conditions not found in nature. That said, the occurrence of a weak condensate in a living cell is mathematically feasible (source). As of 2015, Frohlich's quantum coherence has even been observed to occur in an organic medium in response to exposure to a subset of electromagnetic frequency that is found in cells (source). I think the fact that cells form only a weak condensate is what's really made this so hard to prove until recently. Weak condensates create local coherence, but when you zoom out, the cell looks incoherent overall. This is why we see reactions in the cell pair up with more speed/accuracy than should be possible, but only when the reactants are within the same area in the cell. Living systems are notoriously difficult to study, and as a result most of our knowledge of the cell is based on isolated reactions outside of the liquid crystal matrix. Thankfully, with quantum biology we are finally beginning to understand that in a living system, things behave differently than they do in a lab.
Before I wrap things up I want to briefly go over how coherence can affect energy transfer. As I mentioned earlier, there's a substantial deficit between the energy we can produce as ATP, and the energy required by the cell. I think coherence can help resolve this paradox. One of the more recent expansions of Frohlich's ideas has been from another one of my favorite researchers, Jiri Pokorny.
Pokorny has written a number of papers on resonance in the cell, and different structures that can be used for this purpose. Interestingly enough, cells are packed full of protein structures. They fill up about 40% of the volume of a normal cell. Because of this, it's estimated that most if not all of the water within the cell is structured. As I mentioned earlier, water structures around these proteins specifically, and when water is structured it becomes far more conductive to protons and electrons. Because of this, the cytoskeleton (the architectural framework of the cell) actually serves as a highway for this electric conduction. The cytoskeleton is made up primarily of protein microtubules, and the protein microtubules are made up primarily of collage. Collagen is actually the most abundant protein in the body, and in my opinion one of the most fascinating.
Collagen has a unique structure as far as proteins go because of its glycine content. Glycine is unique in the fact that it is non-chiral, meaning that it exists in only one form (isomer). All other amino acids exist in both a right and left facing mirror image of each other. The amino acids found in nature are usually always in the “L” form, which is necessary for proper protein folding and many other functions. Because glycine is non-chiral and the smallest amino acid, its high levels in collagen causes collagen to form a spiral helix structure similar to DNA. This spiral structure and the conductive property of the amino acids in proteins in general makes collagen essential for semi-conduction in the cell.
Microtubules are actually a core part of coherence in the cell. First, they can almost instantaneously transmit protons and electrons, which drives a type of reaction called “redox” reactions throughout the cell. Second, they channel light into an electric current similar to what DHA does in the eye. The world's darkest material, Vantablack, actually used carbon nanotube technology to prevent light reflection by more than 99% (it's well worth a google search). Third, collagen is piezoelectric, meaning that it's a material that converts mechanical energy into electric energy. This means if pressure or force of any sort is applied to the cell it can be harnessed as electric energy. Bone is very high in collagen, and expresses many of these properties on a macro scale. It is also piezoelectric, and the ability of bone to heal is tied with the amount of current it holds. I think both lack of impact stress on bone and our highly altered EMF environment both play a role in the increasing cases of osteoporosis, perhaps even more than the dietary factors I've mentioned elsewhere.
As I mention in the upcoming guest blog I wrote for Grimm's website, cells do everything they can to conserve energy loss and channel energy from their environment. In a sense, the microtubules seem to act similarly to both tuning forks and electric wires. Since the space within the cell is filled with these resonating structures, it allows information and energy to be carried through the cell without diffusing as they would in bulk water. Microtubules condense energy, and drive the coherent local reactions between molecules. They even act as a rail system for transport proteins to carry reactants over long distances that are outside the range of coherence. If you find this interesting, you can read some of Pokorny's work on microtubules here.
Quantum coherence is what creates the almost magical property of cells having the energy they need whenever and wherever they need it. Structured water has a high dielectric constant that allows it to build low voltage electric charge, and a high heat capacity that allows it to act as a sink for thermal energy. When you plug this water into a network of proteins, it creates a field of fluid energy that the cell can draw upon as needed. ATP is the cell's way of coupling the creation of electromagnetic energy and heat to the creation of chemical energy, so that the different forms of energy can be channeled into the energy network rather than dissipating. ATP is a useful byproduct, not the goal in itself. To quote Pokorny, “Energy supply from metabolic sources can excite vibrations far from thermodynamic equilibrium. Excitation depends on the amount of energy supplied to the system, but not on the manner of its supply” (source).
There are many ways the external environment affects quantum coherence in mitochondria. The best way to optimize this is by taking care of your mitochondria. The primary way mitochondria produce energy is through what's called oxidative phosphorylation, where an electron current is run through the electron transport chain to harness the flow of protons through the ATPase enzyme. For context, for every 2 ATP produced by glycolysis (carb breakdown), 30 are produced by oxidative phosphorylation. Oxidative phosphorylation is maximized by a proper light environment, and inhibited by blue light, inflammation, artificial EMF, dehydration, nutrient deficiency, and insulin/leptin resistance. Everything I discuss on my blog and on twitter revolves around optimizing this process in mitochondria. I'll expand on each of these factors in depth in future blogs, but that's it for today.