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Quantum biology

Quantum Biology

Quantum Biology (QB) has advanced over the past decade with efforts to converge quantum mechanics, at the scale of atoms and particles, and biology at the cellular level.  This emerging field originated from interrogation of the basic quantum principles that govern interactions at the molecular scale and consequently result in persistent effects at the organism level.  Recent evidence has demonstrated that quantum processes are relevant in key mechanisms for bird navigation, olfactory sensing, and photosynthesis.  Our group and collaborators are pioneering what appears to be a fundamentally important domain of QB: namely, the role and control of electron spin in the biological production of ROS.  This “spin biochemistry” is the study of radical pair dynamics that impact ROS partitioning into different chemical species at their points of formation.  At the heart of this QB problem lies the quantum mechanical phenomenon of singlet-triplet mixing, which is a type of superposition (coherence) of quantum states.  Understanding the fundamental quantum properties that regulate ROS production promises to open new approaches to control ROS-related signaling mechanisms.

A major challenge in QB has been the difficulty of making direct, rigorously controlled measurements of quantum processes in biological environments.  The development of new experimental techniques to probe quantum phenomena in cell biology, that accurately reflect in vivo situations, represents a transformational breakthrough.  Thus, our approach to QB will reveal quantum signatures in ROS production, resulting from the bioenergetics of normal cellular metabolism and link signatures to outcomes.  Indeed, bioenergetics and the formation of ROS are inextricably connected, contributing to various ROS signaling pathways and gene regulation.  A significant achievement in redox cell biology would be to understand the basic fundamental mechanisms of ROS signaling. Demonstration of quantum signatures in the formation of ROS and subsequent activation of specific transcriptional signaling pathways that lead to altered growth profiles could have enormous fundamental impacts on a number of agricultural and biotechnology research areas.

“A good book is like a good soldier: it falls in the battle” —