We have come to the crux of our considerations around the Healing Process. In this post we will see exactly how the healing process works and what players are involved. Again, Dr. Gary Samuelson will tell the story in his own easy-to-read words. We will start with two video clips: one of the process called “Covalent Bonding” and the other on how free radicals and antioxidants work in order to help us better understand how “free radicals” (oxidants) do their damage and how the antioxidants neutralize and disarm them by a simple exchange of electrons between “oxidants” (electron donors ) and “reductants” (electron acceptors). At the end of the day, restoration of balance is the goal of the healing process, as we shall see, and the “villains” of the free radicals turn out to be essential players in the process of maintaining homeostasis. This, I promise, will be a fascinating read. Enjoy! (Newcomers to my blog would enjoy reading the previous posts in this series on The Healing Process for background information.)
Redox Regulation of the Healing Processes-New Science
Emerging science from the past five years has solidly established that the chemical balance of small reactive redox messengers is essential to the healing process and the regulation of the immune system. These small reactive “redox” molecules participate in the same homeostatic balancing act that is used to balance the proper amount of the various proteins inside the cell (as we already have discussed). These “redox” messengers are constantly being produced, mostly by the mitochondria in the cells, and then constantly being eliminated at the same rate by a variety of protective enzymes (generally called “antioxidants“) that are strategically stationed inside and outside of the cells.
Let us more closely examine these reactive “redox” messengers for a minute. They are made from simple rearrangements of the atoms in H20, NaGI and N2 and are put together by special molecular complexes in the cell. Some examples of redox signaling molecules are H202, H02, HOCI and NO. About half of the redox messengers can be categorized as “oxidants” and the other half, in fairness, can be categorized as “reductants.” “Reductants” is a contrived nickname, the official name being energetic “electron acceptors.” Oxidants, incidentally, can also be referred to as energetic “electron donors” in the same sense.
Not much is said about “Reductants” in the literature. In fact this nickname was just fashioned to be able to talk about this group of electron acceptors in this booklet. The basic concept, however, is very familiar to chemists and physicists. The laws of conservation of charge, mass and energy dictate that every time an oxidant is made from a neutral solution, a reductant or combination of reductants must concurrently be made to counterbalance it. The electron acceptors must balance out the electron donors. The ability of the resulting molecules to oxidize or reduce the molecules in their environment is referred to as the “redox” potential, a key player and motivator for all of the chemical reactions that take place in nature.
The name “redox” itself comes from the ability of these messengers to “REDuce” and/or “OXidize” molecules in their environment. Reduction and oxidation are chemical terms that relate to the potential that the molecules have to “give away” (oxidize) or “accept” (reduce) electrons to and from other molecules in their environment. As mentioned, all chemical reactions taking place in the cell depend on this redox potential in order to happen. Redox messengers have the ability to change the redox potential of their environment, thereby altering the chemical reactions that take place. Strong reductants and oxidants can both be harmful and destructive to the cell if they are allowed to wander around at will.
The oxidants, in particular, have made a really bad name for themselves; several of them are free radicals that have high energy, unpaired electrons that will blow apart whatever they come into contact with (like tiny molecular cannons). Oxidants will damage DNA, blow holes in cellular membranes, destroy important proteins, etc. The reductants are also hazardous, they will grab electrons away from molecules (with the ferocity of small molecular sharks), thereby causing destruction. To be perfectly clear, reductants are not antioxidants. Reductants are simply the chemical counterparts of oxidants (much like acids and bases). Antioxidants, on the other hand, are a class of much larger organic molecules produced by genetic coding that act as catalysts capable of facilitating the reverse chemical processes needed to ultimately “untie” and neutralize both the oxidants and the reductants. Antioxidant cycles require both oxidants and reductants in order to work correctly.
Let us focus on the antioxidants for a minute. The antioxidants were historically considered as the heroes of the cell because they broke down the harmful oxidants by pulling them in and neutralizing them together with reductants, leaving just common harmless sea-water molecules in their wake. Over an antioxidant cycle (some of which are complex multi-step processes) the oxidants and reductants are neutralized [view clip], however the antioxidant itself remains unchanged, ready to do it all over again to the next set of oxidants and reductants. The antioxidant in this sense is a catalyst that speeds up the neutralization of oxidants with reductants and yet of itself remains unchanged. You can think of an antioxidant as a black box: reactive and potentially dangerous oxidants and reductants go into the box and harmless neutral sea-water molecules come out.
Ironically, the oxidants (that historically have been thought to be the villains) are now seen as central players to the healthy function of the cells. We have recently learned that we would not be able to live without either the reactive oxidants or the reductants. The truth be told, these tiny reactive molecules play an absolutely essential messenger role in our cells and tissues [my underscore]. The most critical aspect of healthy redox-messenger balance is in that the oxidants and reductants must be produced and eliminated in perfectly-balanced and equal portions. As long as there are equal portions of oxidants and reductants in the interior or exterior of the cell, the antioxidants can readily neutralize them both as fast as they are created. As discussed, the antioxidants need equal portions of oxidants and reductants in order to function, in the case of Glutathione (an abundant antioxidant made in our cells). The large mouth of the relatively huge antioxidant molecule lures in a reductant (that is electron hungry) and then lures in an oxidant (that has an energetic electron to donate) and then pulls them both together into the “active site” in the middle. At the active site, the reductant and oxidant are combined together, neutralizing them both. The resulting harmless molecules float away. The antioxidant is then free to do it all again. If there is an ample supply of reductants and oxidants in the neighborhood, one antioxidant molecule can typically neutralize tens of millions of oxidant molecules every second, as measured in the lab. [Emphasis and underscores mine]
This was a eye-opener for me when I first read it, and I believe it is crucial to a better understanding of homeostasis. There are no “good” and “bad” players in this microcosm of the biological universe that comprises our bodies. There’s only “appropriate” and “inappropriate” based on place and timing, balance and imbalance. To quote a poet friend and colleague, “Nothing is wrong. Everything matters.”
The antioxidants are purposefully manufactured, sent to and positioned around the areas of the cell, such as the nucleus, that are vulnerable to oxidative damage. As equal portions of oxidants and reductants approach these protected areas, the antioxidants standing guard around these areas pull them in and neutralize them both. The antioxidants are thus able to keep these potentially harmful reactive molecules away from protected areas and corral and use them for their own best purposes. Consequently, the immune system uses large amounts of such oxidants, along with strong demolition enzymes, as its weapon of choice against harmful invading bacteria and viruses. The foreign invaders do not even stand a chance against these potent weapons. After the invaders have been torn apart and destroyed by the enzymes and oxidants, the surrounding antioxidants standing guard and other enzymes clean up the mess, toxins and hazards.
THE HEALING PROCESS DESCRIBED
The key to understanding how this redox balancing process helps the body heal itself comes when considering what happens when the cells become damaged or defective for some reason or another. There are thousands of different processes with thousands of different proteins taking place everywhere inside the cell. When something is not working right, how does the cell detect the damage? The answer lies in the fact that as the normal homeostatic balance that exists in healthy cells is disturbed, somewhere in the cell there is either a build-up or deficiency of the normal quantity of proteins. There is a high probability that this
growing imbalance will at some point make the metabolism of sugars less efficient. When this happens, the redox-messenger production in the mitochondria becomes unbalanced, producing many more oxidants than reductants or vice versa. In other words, the damage will ultimately manifest itself as a build–up of oxidants or reductants. This condition is called “oxidative stress” and is a real phenomenon seen (under the microscope) to occur in almost all defective or stressed cells (in both animals and plants).
An imbalance in the redox messengers, usually manifesting itself as oxidative stress, sends a clear signal that damage has occurred somewhere and that the cell is defective. The excess oxidants are not balanced by reductants and cannot be effectively neutralized by antioxidants. These oxidants end up causing even more damage to other parts of the cell. This clear signal for help causes the DNA to code for the “fix–it crew” and cytokine messengers that are sent out to alert the immune system. If this imbalance (oxidative stress condition) is not corrected by the attempts of the fix–it crew, the oxidants continue to build up. Then after about two hours, the fatally damaged cell starts a “programmed cell suicide” cascade (apoptosis) that will end up with the cell killing and dismantling itself. This is not a bad thing. Normal healthy neighboring cells will then be able to divide in order to fill in the vacancy. On the microscopic scale, this is essentially the healing process. [my underscore]
The oxidative stress condition in a stressed or damaged cell also causes the DNA to code for messengers to be sent to neighboring cells, advising them of its condition. Redox messengers can also be used as these intercellular messengers. If the damaged cell, such as those found in tumors, is not able to kill itself, then its neighboring healthy cells will send back “death domain” messengers as well as distress messengers to the immune system that will either cause the damaged cell to die or to be attacked by the immune system. This system is regularly used to detect and destroy practically all of the damaged and dysfunctional cells in the body. Remember, it only takes one undetected dysfunctional cell, out of the trillions that are successfully detected and killed, to start seeding an abnormal growth.”
This brings our series to a turning point. The posts that will follow will look at the role of the immune system in healing and how this system is activated by the Redox Signaling Molecules. View this video clip to prepare for the next consideration.
Clip: The Healing Revolution – the Science Behind ASEA.
To your health and healing,
Dr. Tony Palombo
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