September 2010|Vol 7|Issue 9

September 2010 | Volume 7 | Issue 9

 

Article
 
Challenges of Ultra high Dilution
 



 



Dr. Paromita Goswami, M.D.(hom)
WZ113A/1,Lajwanti Gardens
Lane no 8, New Delhi-110046
Email: paromitanih@gmail.com
Phone no-09711183620


    Parameters of Scientificity
         Science is defined as knowledge ascertained by observations and experiment, critically tested, systematized and brought under general principles especially in relation to the physical world. Definition of science does not cover fully the pre-requisites of a scientific work, the method of scientific inquiry, and limitations of science. First of all let us have a talk on the view of the scientific world and find out the place of homoeopathy in the premises of science1.

    Scientific Knowledge Is Durable:
         Scientist share certain common views and attitudes about the work they do and how they view their work. To them the ‘world is understandable’. As science is based on the strong foundation of observation, reasoning and induction, the knowledge thus formed is indeed durable. However, it is these scientific ideas that are even subjected to changes. Science is a process of producing knowledge. The process entails careful observations of phenomenon and on inviting theories for making sense out of these observations. Change in knowledge is obvious because new observations may challenge the prevailing theories. No matter how well one theory explains a set of observation it is possible that another theory may fit just as well or better. This process of rational reasoning gives birth to scientific inquiry.

         Homoeopathy is a system of medicine which is based on a philosophy and some general interpretation of nature which science universally recognizes as Fundamental. They include – ‘The laws and ways of nature are uniform and harmonious’, ‘Effect follows causes in an unbroken succession’, ‘To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’, ‘Matter is indestructible and infinitely divisible’. Infact, most of the homoeopathic principles can be answered through these fundamental, well recognized laws of nature2.

         The efficacy of homoeopathic treatment is tested through time. Even after considerable opposition from various authorities, this system of medicine has emerged stronger and steadier with time. The reason for this can be attributed to its strong foundation and its steady working principles in the form of Law of similia, Totality of symptoms, Single medicine, minimum dose all resting in the firm premises of nature 3.

    Scientific inquiry demands evidence:
         The popularity and acceptability of homoeopathy, its effects and its potentials to treat has been dubbed as a “Placebo effect” by the critics. However, the efficacy of homoeopathic medicines has forced some men of science to ponder over its scientific basis. As Prof (Dr) CR.Mahata (Emeritus Scientist, Electrical Engineering Department, Bengal Engineering and Science University, West Bengal) justified that as he had seen impressive cures by Homoeopathy for more than 40 years he was therefore inspired to take up the work of seeking convincing answers to the mode of action of homoeopathic “medicines” lacking any active ‘ingredients’. His present area of research on the Technique of “Dielectric Dispersion” seems to be capable of giving convincing answers to many questions.
    An interesting laboratory experiment that goes on to support the scientificity of Homoeopathy was performed by Dr. A. R. Bukhsh., Professor, Dept. of Zoology, Kalyani University. His Experiment entitled “Efficacy of a potentized homoeopathic drug (Arsenicum-Album-30) in reducing cytotoxic effects produced by arsenic trioxide in mice: III. Enzymatic changes and recovery of tissue damage in liver”. The background of this experiment was widespread occurrence of arsenic poisoning in West Bengal. Thus the experimenters decided to test the efficacy of the homoeopathic medicine Arsenicum album 30 in combating the damages of Arsenic toxicity in mice model. A simplified version of the original article is provided here for easy understanding. The original paper was published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2000; 8 (2): 76-81. 4

         The extent of deposition of arsenic in different vital organs of mice was calculated after a single sub lethal injection of arsenic trioxide. Another batch of five mice injected with normal saline served as a negative control (saline control).


         The next step was to assess the action of micro doses of arsenic in effectively reducing arsenic deposition. Among arsenic treated mice, one batch was fed with diluted potentized alcohol-30 (alcohol-treated-positive control), one batch with a potentized homoeopathic drug Arsenicum Album-30 in ultra low doses (active treatment) while the remaining one was neither fed with potentized alcohol nor with the potentized homoeopathic drug (as-intoxicated control).

         The accumulation of arsenic was determined by spectrophotometric analysis. In arsenic treated mice orally administered with the homoeopathic drug, statistically significant decreases in accumulation were observed in all tissues at most fixation intervals as compared to controls. The homoeopathic drug Arsenic album can be considered to be effective in antagonizing and antidoting arsenic poisoning.

         This published paper is a strong proof for the critics who try to nullify the potentials of homoeopathy as a mere placebo response. After all, the mice will not be impressed by the good behaviour of a homoeopathic physician!

    Science explains and predicts:
         Scientists strive to make sense out of observation of phenomena by constructing explanations for them. In doing so they use the currently accepted scientific principles. But the most important thrust of such principle is on sound logic. Science is a blend of logic and imagination. Homoeopathy was the logical and legitimate offspring of the inductive philosophy of Aristotle and Lord Bacon. Inductive logic concern itself with facts, with reality. Its primary purpose is the discovery and use of truth. Truth in itself is simple but to seek truth in a given set of observation is not an easy job. The road leading to such a discovery is unknown, dark, and full of pitfalls for the unwary but the electric lamp of inductive logic lights the way safely from the known to unknown. To use this source of illumination we certainly need to do the needful which comes in the form of Exact Observation, Correct Interpretation, Rational Explanation and Scientific Construction 5.

         However, with the progress of scientific knowledge attempts have been made to solve the mystery of the modus operandi of Homoeopathic infinitesimal doses.

         The major contribution to this field can be attributed to Jacques Benveniste (1935-2004)-a French immunologist .In 1979 he published a well known paper on the structure of Platelet –activating factor and its relationship with histamines. Benveniste was at the centre of major international controversy in 1988, when he published a paper in the prestigious scientific journal Nature describing the action of very high dilutions of anti-IgE antibody on the degranulation of human basophils, findings which seemed to support the concept of homoeopathy. Biologists were puzzled by Benveniste’s results, as only molecules of water, and no molecules of original antibody, remained in these high dilutions.Benveniste concluded that configuration of molecules in water was biologically active; a journalist coined the term water memory for this hypothesis. Much later, in the nineties, Benveniste also asserted that this ‘memory ‘could be digitalized ,transmitted, and reinserted into another sample of water, which would then contain the same active qualities as the first sample. However, after the article was published, a follow up investigation was set up by a team including physicist and editor of nature John Maddox, magician and well known skeptic James Randi, as well as fraud expert Walter Stewart. The group however failed to replicate the original results, and subsequent investigations did not support Benveniste’s findings either. Benveniste refused to retract his controversial article, and he explained (notably in letters to nature) that the protocol used in these investigations was not identical to his own. The controversies continued Benveniste lost his prestigious job but he continued his research works in homoeopathy with the help of external funding.

    Water channel-Aquaporin theory
         Aquaporins are a class of integral membrane proteins or major intrinsic proteins (MIP) that form pores in the membrane of biological cells. Living organisms are composed mainly of water, whose vital function as a ‘universal solvent’ enables the body to maintain it’s osmotic, metabolic, thermal, and electrochemical balance, as well as transporting nutrients and catabolites within the cell. It is readily apparent that the movement of water into and out of the cell is essential to adapt to its environment and, therefore, fundamental to life. However, although simple diffusion of water across the lipid bilayer occurs through all biological membranes, its low velocity and finite extent soon became apparent, suggesting the existence of additional pathways for water movement through the membrane. The precise and complete answer only came relatively recently (Noble prize winning discovery) with the findings of the aquaporins (AQPs), proteinaceous water channels making the membrane 10 to 100 fold more permeable to water than membranes lacking such channels7.

         The primary bimolecular target of a homeopathic potency is unknown. If it is a plasma membrane protein such as water-channel protein, the drug would alter water permeation in cells. Keeping this reasoning in view an experiment was carried out in the Zoology Laboratory of Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan, West Bengal 8with an objective to see if potentized homeopathic drugs like Mercuric chloride 30c and Nux vomica 30c could alter permeation of water through the erythrocytes of a fresh water cat fish under acute ethanol intoxication. Erythrocytes were incubated in distilled water at 30°C for 30 minutes with Ethanol 30c (control), Merc cor 30c (test 1), Nux vomica 30c (test 2).The medicines used were prepared according to homoeopathic principles. Red blood cells (RBCs) from ethanol-injected fish permeated more water than those from normal fish. Water permeation was enhanced with Merc cor 30c and Nux vom 30c. RBCs from fish pretreated with Nux vom 30c imbibed more water in -in vitro treatments than those from fish pretreated with Ethanol 30c. Because water channel proteins or aquaporins are mainly responsible for water transport through the plasma membrane of RBCs, it is thought that potentized drugs interact with these proteins, thereby facilitating water influx in the cells. Thus, this paper suggests that homoeopathic medicines can probably act through Aquaporin channels.

         The most recent progress in terms of Scientificity of homoeopathy which has generated new hopes in the homoeopathic community is a paper by Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier.His paper entitled ‘Electromagnetic signals are produced by aqueous nanostructures derived from Bacterial DNA sequencing’ states that the capacity of bacterial DNA sequences to induce electromagnetic waves at high aqueous dilutions.. It appeared to be a resonance phenomenon triggered by the ambient electromagnetic background of very low frequency waves. Based on these findings, Luc Montagnier recently claimed that his findings may relate to the mode of activity of homoeopathic medicines- much to the dismay of his colleagues.9

         Sir Isaac Newton first believed that the earth was formed by large massy impenetrable substances. But as time elapsed by, the concept of molecules, atoms and electrons emerged which completely changed the idea of the constituents of the earth. The Scientific basis of Homoeopathy may not a well proved reality today but to tracing out its modus operandi is not impossible. Infact, the word impossible should not exist in the dictionary of science. The scientific spirit directs us to move forwards; to seek, to search and explore further and further- Indeed, challenges to new ideas are the legitimate business of science in building valid knowledge.

    BIBLIOGRAPHY
    1. Journal of American Association for the Advancement of Science: The Nature Of Science: The Scientific World View,ScientificInquirynd The Scientific Enterprise. http://www.project2061.org/publications/sfaa/online/chap1.html
    2. Close Stuart. The Genius of Homoeopathy. Reprint edition 1997. B. Jain Publishers (P) Ltd. New Delhi (India)
    3. Kent J. T. Lectures on Homoeopathic Philosophy Reprint edition 1997. B. Jain Publishers (P) Ltd. New Delhi (India)
    4. Bukhsh A.R. Efficacy of a potentized homoeopathic drug (Arsenicum-Album-30) in reducing cytotoxic effects produced by arsenic trioxide in mice: III. Enzymatic changes and recovery of tissue damage in liver. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2000; 8 (2): 76-81.
    5. Roberts H. A.: The Principles and Art of Cure by Homoeopathy Reprint edition 1997. B. Jain Publishers (P) Ltd. New Delhi (India).
    6. Jacques Benveniste: Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Benveniste (Accessed on 08.07.2010)
    7. Chavda Hitesh, Patel C.N. Aquaporins: The Secret Highways for Water Transport. http://www.pharmainfo.net/reviews/aquaporins-secret-highways-water-transport (Accessed on 15.0 7.10)
    8. N. C. Sukul, A. De, S. P. Sinhababu, A. Sukul. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. October 2003, 9(5): 719-725. Doi: 10.1089/107555303322524562
    9. Montagnier Luc. Aissa Jamal. Ferris Stephane. Montagnier Jean. Lavallee Claude. Electromagnetic signals are produced by aqueous nanostructures derived from Bacterial DNA sequencing. Interdiscip Sci Comput Life Sci.DOI:10.1007/S12539-009-0036-7.