2009 Goi Peace Award Commemorative Speech

The Biology of Belief

Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D.


Today I would like to talk about the new biology, which I am very excited about.

In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA, the molecule from which genes are made. DNA was thought to control an organism’s traits and characters, and science referred to this discovery as being the “Secret to Life.”

Today I would like to talk about the new biology, which I am very excited about.

In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA, the molecule from which genes are made. DNA was thought to control an organism’s traits and characters, and science referred to this discovery as being the “Secret to Life.”

In 1958, Francis Crick created a hypothesis called “The Central Dogma.” The idea was that the heredity information in DNA genes was translated into RNA, a disposable copy of the gene. The RNA molecule was used as a blueprint to make the building blocks of the body called proteins, and our physical and behavioral characteristics were based on the protein molecules that make up our bodies.

The important point here is that information only goes in one direction. The DNA shapes the body and its behavior, but the experiences of the body cannot send information back to the DNA. In other words, this hypothesis states that genes control our lives and we cannot control or influence our genes.

The cover of this LIFE magazine asks “Were you born that way?” The main story is the belief that genes control our physical and behavioral traits. It is thought that at birth, the genes in the fertilized egg determine the characteristics of our lives. If cancer, obesity, or heart conditions run in the family, we may expect to suffer from these diseases as well, since the traits were thought to be controlled by the genes passed down by the parents. This concept in biology is called “genetic determinism.”

Since we cannot influence our genes, and since we did not pick our genes as far as we know, and we cannot change our genes, we are “victims” of our heredity. The unfortunate part about being a victim is that we become irresponsible because we feel there is nothing we can do about our lives. We also then look for someone to rescue us from these bad genes that we might have received.

Since it is thought that genes “control” life and almost all of the cell’s genes are in the cytoplasmic structure called the “nucleus,” this organelle (nucleus) is referred to as the “brain” of the cell. If you remove the brain from an organism, the organism dies. However, if you remove the nucleus, a process called “enucleation,” the cell does not die. It keeps on living with the same functions for two or more months, even though it has no genes in it. The conclusion is straightforward: the nucleus is not the brain of the cell.

Then what is the role of the nucleus? My research identified that the genes in the nucleus are simply blueprints to manufacture the protein molecule building blocks. Actually, the nucleus is the cell’s “gonads,” for it is the organelle responsible for reproducing the cells.

A gene is simply a “blueprint” with a pattern to make a specific protein building block. There is no such thing as a blueprint being “on” or being “off.” The idea of a gene switching “on and off” is a false belief. Genes are not self-actualizing. Since genes do not regulate their own activity, they cannot control anything. Genes DO NOT control life!

I was provided further understanding about how life works through my research on stem cells. Many think stem cells are something new in biology, but in fact, I was cloning stem cells in the lab over 40 years ago.

Everyone has stem cells throughout their bodies; otherwise they would not be alive.

Everyday, through normal age, we lose billions of our cells. If we did not replace these cells we would very quickly become dysfunctional and die. Stem cells in your body are like a population of embryonic cells that have not matured, and they can replace any type of cell needed by the system.

In my experiments, I would isolate one stem cell and put it in a tissue culture dish all by itself. After 10 hours the cell would divide and I would have 2 cells in the dish. In another ten hours they would both divide and I would have 4 cells; after another ten hours I would have 8 cells. By 10 days to 2 weeks, I would have thousands of cells in the dish. They are all genetically identical because they came from the same parent cell.

I would remove some of these cells and put them in a new tissue culture dish that contained a different growth medium, the culture fluid that represented the cell’s environment. The culture medium to the cell is the same as air, water, food, environment and climate are to people. In this particular environment the cells formed muscle.

In a second culture dish I added my stem cells but used a different growth medium made with different chemistry. In this environment, the stem cells formed bone.

In a third dish, I added the same stem cells but I used another variation of the growth medium. In this environment, the cells formed fat cells.

The big question: “What controls the fate of the cells?” Since all the cells were genetically identical, the only difference was the environment. It was the environment that controlled the fate of the cell, and not the genes!

My research then tried to find out how the environment controlled the cells. In the tissue culture dish, the components of the growth medium represent information or “signals” in the environment. When I changed the chemistry in my culture dish, the signals would interact with the cells by binding to the cell membrane, the equivalent of their skin. Proteins in the cell membrane would respond to the environmental signals by sending information into the cell to control the cell’s behavior. And sometimes these signals would actually go into the nucleus and control the genetic activity of the cells. That was when I realized that the cell membrane was the interface between the environment and the inside of the cell, and that it was actually the brain of the cell.

So how exactly does the signal control the cell’s behavior? I found out that there are “switches” on the cell’s surface membrane. There are over a 50,000 different types of switches, each responding to a different environmental signal. While these membrane “switches” control different cellular functions, they all share the same basic structure with two parts: a “receptor” and an “effector.” Just like we have receptors in our skin such as eyes, ears, nose and taste receptors, the cell reads the environment through the receptor.

The receptor and the effector are connected by a “processor protein.” When the membrane receptor protein responds to a signal, it changes shape and connects to the processor protein. Both proteins then couple to the membrane effector protein, whose job is to send a signal into the cell and control a specific cellular function.

When the environmental signal goes away, the membrane “switch” proteins disconnect from each other and the cellular function stops. These protein switches are like the wall switches that turn lights on and off. The process of converting environmental signals into cell behavior is called “Signal Transduction.” Signals received at the cell surface are transmitted in a cascade from one protein to another. These information pathways map how different cell functions such as digestion, respiration, excretion, nerve activity and cell mobility are activated and controlled.

If the proteins that are needed to make an appropriate response to the environmental signals are not available in the cytoplasm, the signal cascade will enter the nucleus to select and activate the gene blueprints that encode the necessary proteins. When the proteins are assembled, they then provide for the behavior needed by the cell.

The study of how environmental signals activate and regulate gene behaviors is called “Epigenetics”—a new science which I presaged 40 years ago. In the old science, which most of us have learned, we recognized “Genetic Control,” which simply means “control by genes.” The new science is radical because the prefix “Epi” means “above” and “Epigenetic Control” means “control ABOVE the genes.” The cell’s response to the environment controls the genes!

Environmental signals not only select which gene blueprints are to be “read,” but can also modify the readout of the blueprint. Epigenetic variations can lead to the creation of over 30,000 different versions of proteins from a single gene. You can create healthy proteins or mutant proteins from the same gene.

For example, today we know that most cancers are not caused by bad genes. It is the way we responded to the environment that altered the readout of the gene to create a mutant product which causes cancer. On the other hand, it also explains something called “spontaneous remission.” That is when some people who are terminally ill change their belief about life, they change their genetics and all of a sudden are remarkably and magically healed.

If you take a tissue culture dish and move it from a good environment to a bad environment, the cells will express behaviors and functions that will make them sick and they will die. To bring them back to health, you do not give them drugs. You simply return the culture to a healthy environment and the cells will recover and flourish.

While you see yourself in the mirror as being a single entity, namely a human being, the truth is you are made out of about 50 trillion cells. The cells are the living entities. We are actually not a single being, but a community of trillions of cells. We are actually “skin-covered” tissue culture dishes containing trillions of cells.

In the body, the “growth medium” for the cells is the blood. The body’s cells respond to the signals in the blood in the same way that cells in tissue culture dishes respond to the growth medium.

Then what controls the composition of your blood, and therefore the fate of your cells? In summary, the signals from the environment such as light, sound, smell, touch are received by the brain as perceptions. The perceptions are interpreted by the mind. In response to the mind’s interpretation, the brain releases chemistry into the blood that controls cell behavior and genetic activity. So if you change your belief and perception, you can change the chemistry of your blood and create your own biology. You are a cell biologist, or more accurately, a “self-biologist” when it comes to controlling the environment of your cells.

When your mind is in a state of love, your brain releases hormones such as oxytocin (the love hormone), serotonin which causes the body to be calm and supports maintenance of the body’s tissues and organs, and growth hormone which regenerates the body’s structures. In contrast, when your mind is in fear, the brain releases a completely different set of hormones into the blood and profoundly changes the fate of the cells and the body. The stress hormone, cortisol, shuts down growth and invests the body’s energy into protection, it also shuts off the immune system to conserve energy for fight and flight. Stress also causes the release of both norepeinephrine that suppresses body maintenance and histamine, which engages defense mechanisms. Your mind is the chemist. The words you say in your mind release the chemistry.

In Japan there is a long history of kotodama. Kotodama is the spiritual character of the words, and it turns out this is a scientific reality. Japanese people also say that illness is caused by the mind. This too now has a scientific basis. You can control the fate of your cells with your beliefs and your perceptions. You are very powerful people, and you only have to understand the nature of the mind.

There are two parts to the mind that controls our lives: the “conscious mind” and the “subconscious mind.” They have very different characteristics. The conscious mind is related to the prefrontal cortex, and it is the home of our personal identity, our source or spirit. It is the creative mind and the source of our wishes, desires and aspirations that says “I want to be healthy,” “I want to be successful,” “I want to have live in my life.” It is also the part of the mind that manifests “positive thinking.” The conscious mind can focus on our past, present and future experiences.

The subconscious mind is essentially a record-playback mechanism. It represents a database where “programmed” behaviors such as instincts and acquired habits are stored. Push the button and the subconscious will automatically play a formerly learned response. A habit learned ten years ago operates as if it were just learned today. And the interesting problem is that the subconscious mind is one million times more powerful an information processor than the conscious mind.

How do we acquire the programs in the subconscious mind? Some data is provided by genetics and those programs are called instincts. The rest comes from observing and recording life’s experiences. To facilitate the downloading of behaviors and appropriate responses to the world, Nature designed the brain of a child to operate in low EEG frequencies (delta and theta) for the first six years of a child’s life. These brain frequencies are also known as the hypnagogic trance state. The EEG frequency of calm consciousness (alpha) arises around age 6. The more intense or focused consciousness (beta) becomes a predominant brain activity around twelve years of age.

For the first six years of its life, a child is unconsciously downloading other people’s behaviors and programming them as their own. Also during this hypnotic period, a child acquires beliefs about themselves that they hear from their parents. Who am I? Am I lovable? Do I deserve things? Am I capable? These assessments are directly recorded into the subconscious mind as the child’s self-identity.

Here comes the big problem. Neuroscience reveals that we only operate our life 5 percent of the time with our conscious creative mind, while we operate our life 95 percent of the time with the habits in our subconscious mind. So while we think we are running our lives, we are actually often creating life with invisible programs acquired from others. When we understand this, it changes life for all of us.

The first thing we have to do is understand the valuable role that parents play, that every word they say to their child is important for the development of the child and the future of the child and the future of our world.

We are all very powerful beings and have an opportunity to create a life filled with health, happiness and love. You cannot change your genes, but you can change your programs. Knowledge is power. Knowledge of self is self-empowerment. We can rewrite our programs and take power over life. We can bring peace and harmony into our own lives and into the world. We can create heaven on Earth.

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