When searching recent literature about the mechanisms controlling growth and development of the body, one point is made repeatedly: the key functional unit in biology is considered to be the cell.
It is the simplest life form capable of surviving as a separate unit. For more than three and a half billion years, single cell organisms were the only forms of life until multiple cell organisms developed. Examples of unicellular organisms which have evolved are amoebae and bacteria. These apparently simple life forms have a remarkable range of survival mechanisms. They can locate nourishment, absorb it, then get rid of the waste products. They have the ability to reproduce themselves. They can move towards a favourable environment or away from an unfavorable one.
Even more remarkable is the case of one form of plasmodium. With this pond slime mold, the cells live as separate entities until the pond starts to dry up when they come together. The mass of cells then migrates as a single unit to another part of the pond, following which the cell units divide back into their separate forms. The ability to do so, the “brain” of the cell, lies in the cell membrane not the nucleus of the cell. The cells accomplish all this without benefit of a circulatory system, a nervous system or a hormonal system.
In the new paradigm which is emerging, we need to think of the body as a collection of 50 billion cells, which have come together as a single unit. Although most of these cells are specialized in some way, they function as a single entity. To understand how this comes about it is necessary to grasp the concept of tensegrity. This is a portmanteau word drawn from tension and integrity. A tensegrity structure consists of a combination of compression and tension elements. Recognition of this type of structure was only achieved about 60 years ago by Buckminster Fuller, an architect and Kenneth Snelson, an artist.
Snelson used the concept to construct sculptures which are remarkable for their simplicity and economy of material. Ingber and Levin both point out that the occurrence of tensegrity structures is widespread in nature indicating that the design is a very early development. The basic structure is a four-sided truss which is a remarkably stable form. A cell consists of a number of these trusses in what is known as an icosahedron meaning that there are 20 sides to the structure. What is remarkable about this is that any pressure to any part of the icosahedron is distributed immediately through the whole entity. As a result, a small change in a part of the structure has a much greater effect that might be expected.
It is now understood that the key component of a cell is the cell membrane, not the nucleus. The cell is not composed of a fluid bag of protoplasm held together by the cell membrane. It has an internal frame work or structure, made up of microtubules and microfilaments. It has been estimated that about 70% of the cell content has a solid consistency. Collectively this is known as the cytoskeleton. The function of the nucleus is primarily with the production of specific proteins needed by the cell to ensure the transfer of information on cell division. It appears that it is the cell membrane which is the most significant control mechanism not the nucleus. Chemical changes taking place outside the cell act on the cell’s internal chemistry. Hormones like the endorphins are carried to the cell by way of the bloodstream. However this is only one way the cell receives information.
The cell membrane has multiple protein strands running across it. These proteins are known as integrins. On the external aspect of the cell membrane, the integrins supply numerous hooks which connect with the extracellular membrane. Internally the integrins link up with other enzymes called second messengers which extend through the cell and even connect to the cell nucleus. These connections are formed by the fascial tissue as part of an extremely rapid system of information/energy transfer. Fascial tissue has been mostly neglected by allopathic medicine in North America but has received much more attention in Germany. The fascia becomes modified mostly by changes in the ground substance. It is estimated to form about 50% of body mass, a very sizable proportion. It has been said that if all the muscle and bones were removed but the fascial tissue left, the remaining tissues would still resemble the main features of the body.
What is interesting is the ability of forces external to the cell to stimulate the nucleus into producing the appropriate proteins. This is important at the partially differentiated level of cell development, the stem cell stage. What is surprising is the newly discovered ability of a mature cell to dedifferentiate back almost to the stem cell level. This has nothing to do with the genes but everything to do with the epigenetic factors. For an orthodontist, this has huge implications. As has been shown, a healing process can be stimulated by suitable electrical stimulation across a non-healing fracture. At this point, the full consequences of using electrical stimuli or magnetic devices in the mouth is an open question. A preferred alternative is the stimulation of the body’s own electromagnetic pathways. There are various such forces.