DNA teleportation (also called DNA transduction) is a pseudoscientific claim that DNA produces electromagnetic signals (EMS), measurable when highly diluted in water. This signal can supposedly be recorded, transmitted electronically, and re-emitted on another distant pure water sample, where DNA can replicate through polymerase chain reaction despite the absence of the original DNA in the new water sample. The idea was introduced by the French Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier in 2009. It is similar in principle to water memory, another pseudoscientific concept popularised by another French scientist, Jacques Benveniste, in 1988.
No independent research has supported the claim, and established science does not support this theory, or provide any plausible mechanism by which it might work. In 2015, Montagnier's team published another finding similar to the original one, but using bacterial and viral DNA. Here they claim that the electromagnetic waves could be explained in terms of quantum effect.
Electromagnetic signals of DNA
In 2009, Montagnier and his collaborators published a paper titled "Electromagnetic signals are produced by aqueous nanostructures derived from bacterial DNA sequences" in which they showed that bacterial DNA can produce electromagnetic signal (EMS) that is transferred through the cell culture medium. They used the DNA of bacteria Micoplasma pirum and Escherichia coli cultured in a T lymphocyte (a type of white blood cell) culture medium. They took the solution of the culture medium with all the bacteria filtered off. Absence of bacterial DNA was ascertained by polymerase chain reaction. When the solution was simply incubated for two or three weeks, the bacterial DNA was detected. They diluted the solution several times and tested for electromagnetic radiation using Fourier analysis by a method developed by Jacques Benveniste and his team in 1996. They detected electromagnetic frequencies only at high dilutions, such as ranging from 10−5 to 10−12.
In a subsequent paper published in the same year, they reported similar EMS from the DNA of HIV under high dilution of the culture medium. They used the prototype virus, HIV1 strain (the discovery for which Montangier shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008). The experiment is more sophisticated. They used CEM cells (T cell leukemia cells) to culture the virus (HIV infected the cells). No EMS was detected an any concentration. They tested blood samples of different HIV-infected patients, such as those showing symptoms of AIDS, treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART), and untreated individuals. They found that EMS were detectable in plasma dilutions between 10−4 and 10−8. The blood samples were only from patients previously treated with ART and having no detectable viral DNA copies in their blood.
The DNA transduction experiment
The experiment was first made in July 2005, and was repeated and filmed for a TV documentary in 2013, released on the French channel France 5 on 5 July 2014. The online journal Ouvertures detailed the test protocol through interviews with Montagnier.
Montagnier's experiment can be summarised as follows:
- A known water sample with 2 ng/ml of 104 bases DNA from an HIV infected patient is diluted by 10 into water and agitated for 15 seconds. After filtration to remove the DNA, the dilution and agitation steps are repeated 10 times, reaching high dilution levels of 10−10.
- The highly diluted sample emits electromagnetic signals (EMS) of low frequencies.
- This EMS is recorded by a microphone coil and saved as a 6-second WAV file at the lab in Paris.
- The WAV file is emailed to a partner team at the university of Benevento in Italy.
- The Italian team emits with a coil for 1 hour the EMS of the WAV file on a sample of distilled water in a sealed metal tube.
- The water sample is then placed in a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine.
- The PCR machine in Italy produces DNA, 98% identical to the initial DNA in Paris.
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It is proposed by Montagnier that some molecules interact through electromagnetic waves instead of direct contact.[not in citation given] These waves could be trapped into coherence domains formed by water molecules vacuum spheres at quantum scales. These structures would keep the signal in the absence of the original molecule. During the PRC step of the experiment, this remaining signal could have contained the necessary information for the initial DNA to be reconstructed.[not in citation given]
The principle is similar to Benveniste's experiment from 1997 where EMS was recorded from ovalbumine at the Northwestern University Medical School of Chicago, and transmitted through email to Benvenist's Digital Biology Laboratory in Clamart, France. After emitting the signal on pure water for 20 minutes, the water could cause an allergic shock on an isolated Guinea-pig heart allergic to ovalbumine. In both experiments the EMS reproduces the properties of the original molecules in their absence.
Responses and criticisms
The 2009 publications immediately followed scientific comments and criticisms on the credibility of the purported phenomenon, as well as the authenticity of the research. According to Jeff Reimers of the University of Sydney, Australia, "If the results are correct, these would be the most significant experiments performed in the past 90 years, demanding re-evaluation of the whole conceptual framework of modern chemistry." Gary Schuster, at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, compared it to pathological science.
The credibility of the peer-review system of the journal Interdisciplinary Sciences: Computational Life Sciences, in which the 2009 papers were published, was questioned. It was a new journal of which Montagnier is chairman of the editorial board. PZ Myers at the University of Minnesota Morris also described it as "pathological science." He described the paper as "one of the more unprofessional write-ups I've ever run across" and criticized the publication process as having an "unbelievable" turnaround time: "another suspicious sign are the dates. This paper was submitted on 03 January 2009, revised on 05 January 2009, and accepted on 06 January 2009", leading him to ask: "Who reviewed this, the author's mother? Maybe someone even closer. Guess who the chairman of the editorial board is: Luc Montagnier... This is the same nonsense and the same apparatus that Benveniste was peddling." The influence of Benveniste can also be inferred from one of the co-authors, Jamal Aïssa, who was Benveniste's collaborator in the research in which they claim that water memory can be transported through the internet. (It was for this research that Benveniste received his second IgNobel Prize in 1998.)
Philip Ball wrote an analysis about Montagnier's work in Chemistry World, stating "It looks like one of the most astonishing discoveries in a century, yet it was almost entirely ignored." He claims this experiment was never replicated and that the work was "ignored for good reason, namely that it’s utterly implausible".
On 28 June 2010, Montagnier spoke at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany, "where 60 Nobel prize winners had gathered, along with 700 other scientists, to discuss the latest breakthroughs in medicine, chemistry and physics." He "stunned his colleagues ... when he presented a new method for detecting viral infections that bore close parallels to the basic tenets of homeopathy. Although fellow Nobel prize winners – who view homeopathy as quackery – were left openly shaking their heads, Montagnier's comments were rapidly embraced by homeopaths eager for greater credibility. Cristal Sumner, of the British Homeopathic Association, said Montagnier's work gave homeopathy 'a true scientific ethos'."
Montagnier was also questioned about his beliefs on homeopathy, to which he replied: "I can’t say that homeopathy is right in everything. What I can say now is that the high dilutions are right. High dilutions of something are not nothing. They are water structures which mimic the original molecules. We find that with DNA, we cannot work at the extremely high dilutions used in homeopathy; we cannot go further than a 10−18 dilution, or we lose the signal. But even at 10−18, you can calculate that there is not a single molecule of DNA left. And yet we detect a signal."
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