Vol. 13, No. 2 Part I, September 2005 3
secondary to the borosilicate contaminants derived fromthe glass in which these preparations are made. Most homeopathic medicines are made in glass and significant amounts of borosilicates contaminate their solutions.
Silicates are often bioactive. Thus, a likely explanationfor the reported effects in homeopathy is secondary silicate contamination.
The Power of Pharmacology
It was around the same time the phenomenon of hormesis was being explored in toxicology, that thepowerful effects of high dose pharmacology was beingdemonstrated and widely used. These discoveries over-shadowed any interest in the clinical effects of low doses. Antibiotics, anesthetics, analgesics and chemotherapeu-tic agents produced such dramatic effects that the almost exclusive focus in pharmacology was on the discovery of new therapeutic agents and agents with lower toxicity,not the potential use of low-doses of drugs. At the sametime, misguided attempts to apply radiation hormesisresulted in disaster. When Eben Byers, a millionairepromoter of a radioactive “longevity tonic” calledRadithor, died of radiation poisoning in 1932, the idea of clinical applications of hormesis took another hit, sincehe had promoted the tonic as scientifically provenbecause of hormesis.
RESEARCH ON THE POSSIBLECLINICAL UTILITY OF HORMESIS
There is a growing literature on exploring the possibleutility of hormetic dose-response effects. Ed Calabreseand Linda Baldwin have summarized several areas of hormesis that may have clinical implications and applica-tions. Alzheimer’s, bone remineralization, tumor growthand revascularization, hair growth, and viral infectionsall have evidence of hormesis as an approach to treat-ment.
A recent special issue in
Critical Reviews in Toxicol- ogy
focused on hormetic dose-response relationships inimmunology including its use in bacterial and viraldisease, lupus, Grave’s disease, acute respiratory diseases,and cancer.
Hormetic dose-response relationships may be the basis for treatment outside toxicology in areas of psychology and stress management.
There may be wide potential for clinical applications of hormesis. It is now well established that low-doses of toxic and infectious agents often stimulate growth, repairand protective processes in cells, animals and humans.These effects are found to occur with a number of toxins, drugs, viral, and bacterial agents includingenvironmental toxins and those used for chemical,biological, nuclear and radiation [CBRN] terrorist purposes.
Hormetic responses occur in various celllines, tissues, animal and plant species and humans andhave been observed after exposure to low levels of toxicchemicals
, including heavy metals
, infectious agents
, as well as ionizing radiation
and in trauma.
Exposure to low-level stressors can induce both generaland specific protective effects. Studies have demon-strated this occurs from exposure to ischemia, heat,hydrogen peroxide, nicotine, oxygen radicals, alcohol,heavy metals (e.g., cadmium, arsenic, lead), cytotoxicand carcinogenic agents used for chemotherapy (e.g.,adriamycin, cisplatinum), interleukin-1 (and othercytokines), gram-negative organisms and other stressors.
3, 18, 19
Reduced mortality as well as reduced cellular andorgan damage has been found in brain, liver, kidney,lung, muscle, and in a number of isolated cell lines. Is it possible to use such low-dose exposures to rapidly induceprotective and therapeutic effects to toxic exposures andstresses without causing harm?
Protective effects canoccur well below the no observable adverse effect level(NOAEL). Could hormesis offer an alternative approachfor the mitigation of a number of toxic and infectiousagents but with potentially wider application, safety andflexibility than current vaccine and anti-toxin ap-proaches?There are a number of examples whereby exposure tosub-toxic doses of otherwise toxic compounds confersprotection and treatment against higher toxic doses of the same or similar harmful compounds.
We call thisconcept Rapid Induction of Protective Tolerance(RIPT). RIPT occurs by inducing a stimulatory effect oncell repair, tolerance and protective processes. Onechallenge in the study of this area is that significant clinical effects would likely arise from a coordinated whole organism response of inherent [self-derived]healing and defense processes that are complex toinvestigate. The clinical value of hormesis may be most evident if multiple, redundant mechanisms are induced.
Many cellular protective mechanisms are distinct fromimmune stimulation, like that produced by vaccines, yet immune mechanisms may enhance and extend a RIPTeffect.
If true, this would allow rapid use of hormesis ina wide variety of situations including terrorism, environ-mental toxicity, drug toxicity, cancer and emerginginfections such as influenza, SARS and Avian flu.
RECENT RESEARCH ON POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS OF HORMESIS
We have been investigating the potential protectiveeffects of low level exposure using a number of toxins ina variety of studies. Our program on protective andtreatment effects examines the biological effects of lowlevel exposures to physical, chemical, and biologicalagents as a simple method for modulating the adverseeffects from exposure to higher doses of the same toxins.
The method could be applicable to self-treatment of toxin exposure by soldiers on the battlefield and forprotecting civilian populations from terrorist