--Dana Ullman, MPH
Professor Luc Montagnier is a French virologist who co-discovered HIV and who won the Nobel Prize in 2008. Dr. Montagnier has received many other significant awards, though his newest research, which may explain how and why homeopathic medicines maintain their biological activity in extreme dilution, may be his most significant to date.
In a recent paper, Prof Montagnier, and his team report the results of a series of rigorous experiments investigating the electromagnetic (EM) properties of highly-diluted biological samples. This new research is significant enough that the bio of Prof Montagnier on wikipedia already highlights it:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luc_Montagnier#Electromagnetic_signals_from_bacterial_DNA (however, predictably enough, this research is ignored in wikipedia's article on homeopathy).
The abstract of this research asserts, "A novel property of DNA is described: the capacity of some bacterial DNA sequences to induce electromagnetic waves at high aqueous dilutions. It appears to be a resonance phenomenon triggered by the ambient electromagnetic background of very low frequency waves."
Although homeopathy is not mentioned in the article, the researchers used aqueous solutions that were agitated and serially diluted (the researchers note that the solutions were "strongly agitated" and that this step was "critical for the generation of signals"). The researchers also note that they used a device made by French immunologist Jacques Benveniste (the famous physician/scientist who conducted studies testing homeopathic doses and whose work was initially published in NATURE, and then, it was "debunked" in that same journal a month later).
The researchers found that pathogenic bacteria and viruses show a distinct EM signature at dilutions ranging from 10-5 to 10-12 (corresponding to 5X to 12X) and that small DNA fragments (responsible for pathogenicity) were solely accountable for the EM signal. The researchers also noted that one experiment found significant effects from dilutions as high as 10-18 (equivalent to 18X). The EM signature changed with dilution levels but was unaffected by the initial concentration and remained even after the remaining DNA fragments were destroyed by chemical agents. Of additional interest was the researchers' observation that they observed the SAME results whether their initial concentration of cells were just 10 or 109.
They observed that the EM signal was destroyed by heating or freezing the sample (a common observation that homeopaths have also found in their medicines). Also, a 'cross-talk' effect was found whereby a negative sample inhibits the positive signal in another sample if they are left together overnight in a shielded container. The researchers propose that specific aqueous nanostructures form in the samples during the dilution process and are responsible for the EM effects measured.
The researchers also detected the same electromagnetic signals in the plasma and in the DNA extracted from the plasma of patients suffering from Alzheimer, Parkinson disease, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The researchers also quote Italian physicist, E. Del Guidice, the same scientist who Benveniste cited, for positing that water molecules can form long polymers of dipoles associated by hydrogen bonds and that electromagnetic radiations that the emit enable them to avoid decay.
With this initial paper Prof Montagnier and his team have started a very promising line of enquiry, which has direct relevance to homeopathy as they continue to investigate the characteristic physico-chemical properties found in high-dilutions of biological material.
Reference: Luc Montagnier, Jamal Aissa, Stéphane Ferris, Jean-Luc Montagnier, Claude Lavallee, Electromagnetic Signals Are Produced by Aqueous Nanostructures Derived from Bacterial DNA Sequences. Interdiscip Sci Comput Life Sci (2009) 1: 81-90.