To fully understand we must travel to our very beginnings and in fact beyond them to the origin of the universe 13.8 billion years ago.
Nine billion years later our solar system came into being. The earth was formed from a combination of numerous asteroids and cosmic debris. It was a violent world with no life, volcanic, hot and toxic with no breathable atmosphere for the first billion years.
The seeds of life
Perhaps the first seeds of life arrived on a meteorite – the development of prokaryotic cells and unicellular organisms with no nucleus. They utilised the minerals and materials of their hostile world by engulfing them.
Prokaryotes are tiny and form the most abundant form of life on earth. They exhibit many varieties of metabolism to power themselves, such as nitrogen fixation (the conversion of atmospheric nitrogen gas to ammonia). Another form of energy production used was methane.
These respiratory processes are effective but they are not efficient, certainly not for the power requirements of intelligent life.
At this time there were cyanobacteria (erroneously thought to be blue-green algae) that photosynthesised in response to light. They produced oxygen as a by-product giving the world an atmosphere that would result in intelligent life some 3 billion years later.
It is considered that the archaea (single-celled microbes that were initially thought to be bacteria) engulfed cyanobacteria – a process called endosymbiosis – initiated the development of the intracellular organelle, the mitochondrion.
The powerhouse of cells
The mitochondrion was first recognised in the 1940s as the powerhouse of the cell, producing ATP (adenosine triphosphate) by the efficient process of oxidative phosphorylation of nutrients, that is, the food we eat, to produce energy via aerobic respiration.
There are some 36 molecules of ATP as opposed to just 2 molecules in anaerobic respiration; this remarkable output of energy permitted the development of intelligent life.
Whether human or bacterium, ATP provides the energy needs of the cell. It’s estimated that there are 100 trillion cells in the human body and each cell contains a billion molecules of ATP, sufficient for a few minutes of life. Accessing those valuable nutrients is performed in the main by bacteria which are therefore vital for life. They co-exist in a ratio of about ten to one with our own cells.
Nutrients in the food that we eat contain energy in a low energy state or standby mode. In order to gain the benefit of the food we eat, the energy status must be raised to a higher level. This is done by ATP in a process of oxidative phosphorylation; the constant loss (oxidation) and gaining of electrons (reduction) engineered by co-enzymes drives the production of cellular energy and that of the organism as a whole.
Unfortunately, this normal metabolic process releases Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) such as peroxides and superoxides. They serve vital roles in signalling and homeostasis but in times of environmental stress there can be an excess of these free radicals, resulting in oxidative stress.
In such instances cellular respiration is adversely effected when the enzyme cytochrome C oxidase takes up nitric oxide in preference to oxygen causing the energy production to fall to low levels and even cell death.
Anything that interferes with ATP production kills the organism in minutes. For instance, cyanide will bind with the terminal enzyme cytochrome C oxidase, blocking the electron transport chain in the mitochondria and stopping the production of ATP. The human body contains only about 50 grams of ATP. So what can be done to reduce oxidative stress?
To the rescue
Everything under the sun is electromagnetic radiation: self-propagating electric and magnetic fields that travel for billions of years without loss across the universe. This is light which is measured by frequency, wavelength and photon energy.
Wavelengths vary from fractions of an atom, as in gamma rays with the highest frequency, to the longest wavelength with lowest frequency being radio waves, potentially the breadth of the universe. Photon energy is proportional to frequency so gamma rays have the highest energy (billion electron volts) while radio wave photons have the lowest.
The sun emits its peak power at the frequency of visible light: 400-700 nm. Every time an electron changes direction it emits a photon, the colour of which is dependent upon the speed of the electron. The higher speeds are shorter in length (such as ultraviolet and violet), whilst the slower wavelengths are longer (such as red and infrared).
The effects of electromagnetic radiation upon biological systems is dependent on wavelength and frequency. The shorter wavelengths are in a word harmful, whilst the longer wavelengths, radio waves, are safer.
Removing oxidative stress
It is now known that the light sensitive proteins found in the mitochondrial respiratory chain respond to the longer wavelengths of visible light and near-infrared by removing oxidative stress, thereby restoring cellular energy.
This is Photobiomodulation and combined with a nutritious diet of fresh food, moderate exercise and rest we can positively glow with health.