An electrifying possibility; a Swedish radiologist posits an astounding theory; the human body has the equivalent of electric circuits - Bjorn Nordenstrom Discover - Find Articles
Watching Bjorn Nordenstrom operate will give you some idea of thenature of the problem. Unorthodox, to say the least.
It's a winter morning in Stockholm; still dark, although well into the day. An old man lies on the operating table, his chest quilted with scars from previous cancer operations. He has a new tumor in what the surgeons have left him of his lungs. Nordenstrom has been given permission to treat him, because the old man doesn't have enough lungs left to remove, and if something isn't done he'll be dead in a year. Still, the old man, prepped with Valium, is conscious and smiling.
Nordenstrom is tall and greying, with a military bearing; the deep lines under his eyes are signs of both his 65 years and his propensity to overwork. Beneath his surgical gown he wears a rubberized radiation vest. He takes hold of a foot-long needle and stares down at the old man's chest. Guided by x-ray equipment of his own design--which gives views of the patient's chest from front to back and side to side--Nordenstrom inserts the needle, with a slight jerk to get it through the chest muscle, directly into the center of the tumor. He takes up another needle and slips it in ten inches below the first. The needles are platinum electrodes. He hooks wires to each, then turns to his assistant and nods. The assis tant twists a dial on an orange box, and the treatment begins.
Nordenstrom asks his patient if he feels any pain, and the old man says no. A few minutes later, Nor denstrom doffs his gown and radiation vest and settles down on a chair next to the operating table. One of the nurses brings him and the old man coffee and cookies. All the while, electric current courses through the old man's chest.
So there Bjorn Nordenstrom sits, calmly sipping his coffee whilehe tries to save the life of another man with a technique that looks as if it has been cooked up by a maniacal electrician with delusions of grandeur. But Nordenstrom is no quack. Not by a long shot: his track record, as a physician and researcher, is as good as any one's. In the 1950s he pioneered a series of remarkable innovations in clinical radiology that seemed radical at the time but are now routinely employed at every major hospital in the world. In the 1960s he was promoted to the most respected position in his field: head of diagnostic radiology at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, then the pre-eminent radiological research labora- tory in the world. In 1985 he served as chairman of
Karolinska's Nobel Assembly, which chooses the laureates in medicine. He is, in the words of Morris Simon, the director of clinical radiology at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital, ''a brilliant, very innovative, very imaginative scientist, who has made significant contributions to radiology and medicine.''
In 1983 Nordenstrom published a 358-page book covering more thantwo decades of experimental work. It's entitled Biologically Closed Electric Circuits: Clinical, Ex- perimental, and Theoretical Evidence for an Additional Circulatory Sytem, and it's potentially revolutionary. Nor-
denstrom claims to have discovered a heretofore unknown universe of electrical activity in the human body--the biological equivalent of electric circuits.
As Nordenstrom describes his body electric, the circuits are switched on by an injury, an infection, or a tumor, or even by the normal activity of the body's organs; voltages build and fluctuate; electric currents course through arteries and veins and across ca- pillary walls, drawing white blood cells and metabolic compounds into and out of surrounding tissues. This electri- cal system, says Nordenstrom, works to balance the activity of internal organs and, in the case of injuries, represents the very foundation of the healing process. In his view, it's as critical to the well-being of the human body as the flow of blood. Disturbances in this electrical network, he suggests, may be involved in the development of cancer and other diseases.
The idea that electric currents can stimulate bodily repair, alert defense mechanisms, and control the growth and function of cells is not a new one in medicine. Bioelec tromagnetics dates back at least 200 years. But the field picked up a dubious reputation at the turn of the century, when researchers who had proposed electromagnetism as a panacea were proved wrong, and the stigma has lingered ever since.
Enter Nordenstrom. His book is neither an esoteric piece of theorizing nor the result of a single isolated ex- periment. He backs up his statements, theories, and conclusions with a wealth of meticulous and ingenious experi- ments, with one clinical ob- servation after another, with theoretical proofs, and with known facts. He makes a strong case, and, at least as far as he's concerned, he has proved it.
Nordenstrom doesn't spare his medical colleagues from the jab ofhis needles. To him their attitude toward elec- tricity in the human body is almost medieval. Knowing of the ''enormous importance of closed electric circuits in modern electronic technology,'' asks Nordenstrom in the conclusion of his book, ''is it seriously plausible that biology can 'afford to ignore' the ex- ceedingly efficient principle of transporting electric energy over closed circuits?''