During my 10 years in the USAF ( United States Air Force ), even as I continued my residency training in Preventive Medicine, I studied electronics by a novel teaching method known as programmed instruction. Never in my wildest imagination then did I foresee the importance of electrons to the human body.
This was my introduction to them, objects so incredibly important to our lives yet unseen to this day. Both an invisible particle and a wave, the electron is fundamental to electricity, magnetism, electron microscopy, particle accelerators and as a component of atoms, but to me as a doctor the most intriguing role of the electron is in chemical bonding, the sharing of electrons by two or more atoms, the basis of oxidation and reduction reactions so common in our body chemistry.
I was taught in high school chemistry that oxidation is the loss of electrons and reduction is the gain of electrons and this is where much of the trouble originates. Oxidation is the rust on metal and the color change of a fresh apple exposed to the oxygen in the air we breathe. Oxygen is vital but oxidation is the price we pay for it.
It starts with the food we eat to create ATP ( adenosine triphosphate ), the fuel of our bodies. One of the inevitable consequences of metabolism of this food we have just eaten is the formation of free radicals, such as superoxide, the hydroxyl radical or hydrogen peroxide, which share a common problem by having been oxidized (electron loss) in the process of metabolism - they are now electrically unbalanced by having lost an electron and to restore electrical neutrality they must replace this missing electron, regardless of cost. Put in a slightly different way, these "radical" substances have been robbed of an electron by the process of metabolism and they must rob somebody else to get that electron back.
This is all taking place in the mitochondria of our cells and the best source of electron bearing tissues are the fatty tissue and protein of adjacent mitochondrial structure as well as mitochondrial DNA. Our free radicals rapidly attack one or the other of these sources from which they deftly slide out an electron thereby restoring their own electrical neutrality and preparing themselves to go through the same thing again with the next meal you have.
The mitochondrial DNA, meanwhile, has suffered another hit, one of the hundreds or even thousands it may receive in a day. The final outcome depends on just how good our damage control functions are working.
Our DNA are being constantly screened for abnormalities with replacement of any damaged component just as computers are routinely screened but it is not fool-proof. If they are not working sufficiently well, the outcome often is cell death.
This damage and damage control process takes place in the mitochondria of every cell in the body. Sooner or later sufficient cells will be lost resulting in impaired tissue or organ function ( heart, nerve, muscle, liver - wherever) It's all a game of chance. This is a form of Russian roulette that never stops until you die and it is all based on shifting electrons about to maintain electrical neutrality and most researchers think this is the mechanism of old age and death.
The electron carries a negative electrical charge and it is of interest that the oxidized free radicals responsible for damage in the body have a positive charge making them a natural target for a free electron. Inflammation has been found to have a positive charge and pain has a positive charge reflecting the accumulation of free radicals.
Ober, Sinatra and Zucker in their book, Earthing - The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? suggest that electrons from the surface of the Earth may have a healing capacity. They may have both anti-oxidation and anti-inflammatory effects, helping to explain their effect on athlete performance and wound healing. Documentation to support this effect is just beginning but the early results look very compelling.
Since electron transfer is such a prominent part of how we function, the role of these natural electrons in disease and injury control may be profound. And to think that we only now are we becoming aware of them.
However Ober, Sinatra and Zucker were not the first to discover the possible biological role of electrons. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi ( Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1937 for his discoveries in connection with biological metabolism and vitamin C ) began to pursue free radicals as a potential cause of cancer in the later years of his life.
He introduced the term electronic biology as early as 1940 and in this novel concept he was way ahead of his peers. He came to see cancer as being ultimately an electronic problem at the molecular level. In the late 1950s he began to apply the electron microscope to his research on cancer and by 1955 he had developed ideas on applying the theories of quantum mechanics to the biochemistry of cancer.
Reflecting his background on electrons in biology he titled his biography Free Radical: Albert Szent-Gyorgyi and the Battle over Vitamin C. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi said, "the body's communication was too fast to be dependent on big molecules and biochemicals." Interest in this concept appears to have waned since his death at least in the United States and Ober et al. appear to have resurrected it.
For ten years I have been studying the adverse effects of statin drugs and I have deduced that one of their most insidious effects is to permit excess accumulation of free radicals as part of their mevalonate blockade, causing inflammation and what amounts to premature old age.
They enhance the aging process using well established, natural pathways. The results are defective brain function, numbness, weakness, unsteadiness - just look at a roomful of elderly in an assisted living facility. Statins can start this process years earlier than they ordinarily would appear.
Duane Graveline MD MPH
Former USAF Flight Surgeon
Former NASA Astronaut
Retired Family Doctor