First appeared in Bay Area BusinessWoman, 10/99
Listening To Your Cells
"What's your gut reaction?" "It just feels right." We casually toss around phrases like these, never imagining that there might be a scientific basis for what we feel intuitively.
But Candace Pert, Ph.D., an internationally respected pharmacologist and research professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Center, has demonstrated that emotional communication in fact begins at the cellular level, with tiny proteins called peptides. Each peptide consists of a string of up to one hundred amino acids. There are twenty different amino acids in all, similar to our 26-letter alphabet. Just as letters are the building blocks of words, sentences, paragraphs and books, Pert explains, peptides can be strung together in different combinations to form biomolecular "words" that communicate with receptor sites. "Receptors are like keyholes in the body, and peptides are the keys, floating around, unlocking and changing the cell," she says.
In her pioneering book, Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel The Way You Feel, Pert explains in fascinating detail how the real "information superhighway" has always existed inside us, creating an intricate communication network that our recent foray into cyberspace can only begin to imitate.
She's the first body/mind researcher to have proven in the lab what mystics and spiritual teachers have been saying for centuries: "your consciousness creates your reality."
Pert walks sure-footedly between the worlds of science and spirituality. Her early scientific successes led to linkages with "some of the great thinkers of our age," including Fritjof Capra and Deepak Chopra. She began to experiment with mind/body theories, such as the Ayurvedic philosophy that one ought to retire by 10:30 p.m., which then causes the body to awaken naturally at dawn. "You sleep less, yet feel so much more refreshed," she points out. "I proved a lot of the science in my own body first."
Her most exciting breakthrough in recent years is the discovery of peptide T, an experimental therapeutic answer for AIDS. The discovery of peptide T illustrates the wedding of spirit and science-literally.
In 1985, Pert and then-fiance Michael Ruff, Ph.D., an immunologist, attended a scientific meeting on Maui, an island Pert calls "the belly button of the earth." She and Ruff had just decided to get married, and, in a romantic mood, came to Maui a week early to hike, camp and commune with Hawaii's legendary energies.
"We climbed Haleakala (a dormant volcano), camped inside the crater, and felt totally connected with nature and with each other," Pert recalls. "When we came down from the mountain, a realization hit me, and during my presentation, I proposed that if we could find the peptide that normally binds to the virus, we would have the drug for AIDS." She explains thoughtfully, "At that time, AIDS was still fairly new; it hadn't 'hit home' with me, so to speak. But when we came back from camping, I felt a sense of enormous suffering. I received the vibration of the suffering and it somehow coughed up this idea."
Clearly, Pert and Ruff, who conducted the peptide T research in tandem, were divinely guided. Of the copious combinations of amino acids possible, Pert and Ruff got the structure of the eight-string peptide T correct in the lab on their first try, the day after her talk. And they got married the same week they took out the patent on peptide T. Says Pert, "My life runs on synchronicity."
Perhaps the greatest synchronicity of all is that, after years of political intrigue and clinical trials that haven't delved to the heart of peptide T's potential, the test Pert has been working towards just began in October. This clinical trial, based in San Francisco, will help determine whether peptide T will, in fact, diminish the AIDS virus, both in people already on standard therapies and in those who haven't yet begun therapy.
The synchronicity? "The chemical structure of peptide T comes from the San Francisco strain of the virus," says Pert. So having the proving ground of her discovery be the place where the proposed cure originated completes a circle. There's something at work here that is larger than pure science. It's more like poetry. Pert agrees. "I believe that when all the scientific principles are discovered and the unified field theory is solved, the solution will be spiritual," she says.
In the meantime, Pert offers some guidelines for those of us wanting to be more in touch with our emotions: start with your own living laboratory, your body. "A lot of peptides and receptors are running our digestion," she says. "We grow up in this ridiculous Western reductionist mode where everything is looked at separately, but you can't separate the body from the mind. Emotions affects digestion. Digestion affects emotions. We need to respect our natural physiology." Then, sounding a lot like EveryMom, she adds, "Be wary of drugs. Go to bed early, wake up early, and watch what you eat."
If you do, you'll be able to trust your gut feelings.
As a "midwife for the soul" Amara Rose offers life purpose coaching, talks, CDs, e-courses, playshops, and an inspirational monthly newsletter, "What Shines." Please visit LiveYourLight.com to learn more. Contact Amara at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call: 1-800-862-0157 within the USA.
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