UPDATE: OPTICAL PHASE CONJUGATION, BIOLOGICAL TISSUE, AND THERANOSOctober 16, 2019
A few weeks ago I blogged about a story that fascinates me, that of Elizabeth Holmes and her one-time rocking-and-rolling multi-billion-dollar Silicon Valley start-up biotech company, Theranos. Her company managed to get several big names on her board before her fall from "grace" and indictment for various types of fraudulent activity. The names included George Schultz, General Mattis, and Riley Bechtel, among many others. So how did someone like Elizabeth Holmes - allegedly a charlatan - manage to con some of the biggest names in the country?
That is, indeed, the question. And thus far, I'm not buying the public narrative, particularly when one compares what Holmes claimed to be up to, and some recent papers. What Holmes wanted to do was to place a unit no bigger than a desktop computer into every home, and into retail outlets, to do on the spot blood analysis able to test for the widest possible panel of diseases, say from blood cholesterol measurements to leukemia and so on, and all this from a very small sample of blood, a couple of drops, and not the endless syringes used now. As I noted in a recent blog (see https://gizadeathstar.com/2019/09/update-that-strange-theranos-story-and-its-optical-patents/), my curiosity was piqued by this claim, for it meant that to be successful, Holmes would have to have in mind a whole new electromagnetic or optical means of spectroscopy to pull off this feat. The device which she claimed to be developing to do this was called the "Edison", and though Theranos took out a number of intriguing patents, what was inside it was described in vague and general terms, remaining essentially a "black box." Ultimately, she could not deliver on her idea, and the rest is history.
But as I noted in the previous blog on this subject linked above, the idea itself was probably responsible for attracting the likes of the Bechtel corporation (Riley Bechtel and George Schultz), and the U.S. military (General Mattis). Imagine, for a moment, being able to do quick and accurate triage on the battlefield using the device, and obviously, the whole concept of a new kind of optical spectroscopy for blood paneling also implied more sinister uses. As I noted in that previous blog, a recent paper in optics had discovered a new kind of light wave that emerges when light is traveling from a crystal to a liquid, and emerges in the boundary transition between the two mediums. Interestingly enough, one of the patents Theranos took out involved the use of a prism in its Edison device.
Well, there may me more to this story, because one of this site's regular readers, T.M., spotted this very intriguing paper:
Notably, this paper appeared in 2009, approximately five years after Holmes founded Theranos. What the abstract says is quite intriguing for our purposes:
Elastic optical scattering, the dominant light interaction process in biological tissues, prevents tissues from being transparent. While scattering may appear stochastic, it is in fact deterministic in nature. We show that, despite experimental imperfections, optical phase conjugation (λ = 532 nm) can force a transmitted light field to retrace its trajectory through a biological target and recover the original light field. For a 0.69 mm thick chicken breast tissue section, we can enhance point source light return by ∼5×103 times and achieve a light transmission enhancement factor of 3.8 within a collection angle of 29°. Additionally, we find that the reconstruction's quality, measured by the width of the reconstructed point source, is independent of tissue thickness (up to 0.69 mm thick). This phenomenon may be used to enhance light transmission through tissue, enable measurement of small tissue movements, and form the basis of new tissue imaging techniques. (Emphasis added)
In other words, as cells move the movement itself distorts the light they emit, but this original signature may be recovered through the phenomenon of phase conjugation. The latter bears a little explanation. Phase conjugation emerged as a major phenomenon of interest from the super-secret work being done in the 1980s during the Reagan administration's Strategic Defense Initiative or "Star Wars" program, and as we shall see in a moment, emerged in quite a different context in the secret Soviet biophysics research of the 1960s and 1970s. Simply put, as a light wave moves through a medium such as the atmosphere, it undergoes scattering that distorts the original "shape" it had when emitted from its source. Thus, pointing a laser at, say, a missile or an aircraft moving through the atmosphere meant that the cohered beam of laser light would be subject to scattering, and lose much of the energy coming from the source of the emission. A way had to be found to mitigate this effect, and the means was phase conjugation, which (to be very crude about it) took a "picture" of the distortion or scattering effects themselves, and then used that distortion itself as a template to reconfigure the laser beam at the source in the opposite pattern or phase, thus allowing the beam to maintain its coherence and energy over much greater distances. In some cases in the literature, this phase conjugation effect was even called "time reserved waves" because the effect of phase conjugation was to reverse the normal inverse square law of light scattering. Theoretically, the phenomenon meant that energy could be concentrated at the target, since the inverse square law was "reversed."
Thus, in this paper, the claim is to have used the same phenomenon to view the the light emitted from cells. This in itself is very intriguing, because if you've been following the work of U.S. Army Lt. Col. Tom Bearden (retired) over the years, you'll recall that the Soviet Union did a great deal of very classified research in biophysics, trying to discover the electromagnetic "templates" of specific diseases in cells, and of healthy "templates" in cells, and then allegedly used those templates to irradiate biological tissue to create, or cure, various diseases including cancer. And there as well, the phenomenon of phase conjugation entered the picture, though as in the above paper, in a biological rather than missile defense context.
Could this phenomenon be coupled to that of the recent discovery of a new kind of light wave emerging in the boundary transition between crystals and liquids that I blogged about in the above-linked blog? My high octane speculative guess is yes, and that those light waves will differ depending on the relative health of the liquid they transition into. But even if that is not the case, I strongly suspect that this paper about bio-optical phase conjugation is yet another indicator that Holmes was on to something, and something very big at that, and that we have not heard the last of the story.
See you on the ...
... oh, one more thought. Imagine applying such procedures to compare and contrast the signatures of GMO crops, versus their natural counterparts. What do you suppose they'll find? My bet is that they'll find subtle and important differences.
Ok, speculation over.
See you on the flip side...