A worldwide epidemic that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't tell us about is privatization. Going back to the days when Maggie Thatcher privatized the British Railway System, we have seen countless efforts to move public entities into the private sector. Now, I am not one to fault the patent system as the bedrock of initiative, invention and enterprise, but there are a few cases in which it just may have gone too far.
I'm speaking of a recent article by Linda Geddes in New Scientist singing praises to a new technique that involves implanting a miniature computer chip in one's neck to suppress an automimmune condition, assuming that electrical signals could control the immune system. In her own words, she declares:
"[T]he electrical language of nerves might be spoken more widely in the body than anyone thought, playing a pivotal role in coordinating the actions of our organs, glands, and cells. It might even be possible to use the nervous system to coax the body into healing itself in ways we never dreamed of."1
The article continues to rave about the pharmaceutical industry all a-twitter, launching a cornucopia of projects to "map the circuits that allow the nervous system to intervene when things go wrong in the body." It's a brave new world, people, all about electrical implants, action potentials, depolarizations and electroceuticals.
Jeepers, that sounds awfully familiar. It's only the hallowed ground chiropractors have stood upon for lo, these 119 years. In the way of a refresher course, here was D.D. Palmer's take on the matter all the way back in 1910:
"Life is the expression of tone. In that sentence is the basic principle of chiropractic. Tone is the normal degree of nerve tension. Tone is the expression in function by normal elasticity, activity, strength and excitability of the various organs as observed in a state of health. Consequently, the cause of disease is any variation of tone – nerves too tense or too static."2 [Italics mine]
It is also resonant with the remarkable body of research the chiropractic community has engaged in with exceedingly limited resources. The very latest example has emerged from the University of Zurich, in which the application of posterior-to-anterior pressure on the lumbar spinous processes revealed bilateral neural responses in medial parts of the postcentral gyrus (S1) as seen by MRI.
Additional activity was recorded in the secondary somatosensory cortex, posterior portions of the insular cortex and various parts of the cingulated cortex, and the cerebellum. In contrast, stimulation from the thumb affected only sections of the contralateral S1. What these observations amount to is that neoplastic changes can be observed with the shear forces commonly used to assess spinal dysfunctions in back pain patients.3
Add to this the studies of Heidi Haavik Taylor out of the New Zealand College of Chiropractic, who has shown by means of a dual peripheral nerve stimulation somatosensory evoked potential (SEP) ratio technique that a cervical spine manipulation produces two significant effects: (1) It alters the cortical integration of dual somatosensory input; and (2) It changes the manner in which the central nervous system responds to a subsequent 20-minute typing motor-training task. It would seem that these neuroplastic changes lie at the heart of what is involved in spinal manipulation, as well as what is involved in overuse injuries.4
Finally, it is resonant with the tenets of applied kinesiology, which has attempted to advance the essence of chiropractic by emphasizing that irregularities in the nervous system and its responses might be best read through the testing of indicator muscles. AK and chiropractic's outreach to orthodox medicine might therefore be best appreciated by the simple fact that too many responses to therapeutic interventions, as well as environmental insults in the body, occur far more rapidly than what can be transmitted through the bloodstream.
But it's the proprietary thing that gives me the willies. It's not unlike what happened at the beginning of the genomic revolution in research, when Craig Venter developed a technique for rapidly identifying all the mRNA sequences in a cell and using them to characterize human brain genes. Calling these expressed sequence tags (ESTs), the NIH then proceeded to patent these gene fragments, even though they were of human origin. The public rose up in justifiable anger and court cases that followed were able to declare these ESTs not directly patentable.5
So, the challenge remains for chiropractic to be able to deliver its message squarely and convincingly as a means of natural health care that scrupulously avoids privatizing the anatomical and biochemical domains of the body. Put in the vernacular, one might say that if the best things in life are free, they are not patentable.
- Geddes L. "Healing Spark: Hack Body Electricity to Replace Drugs." New Scientist, February 2014;2957:20.
- Palmer DD. The Chiropractor's Adjuster: The Text-Book of the Science, Art, and Philosophy of Chiropractic. Portland, OR: Portland Printing House, 1910.
- Meier ML, Hotz-Boendermaker S, Boendermaker B, Luechinger ZR, Humphreys BK. Neural responses of posterior to anterior movement on lumbar vertebrae: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study. JMPT, 2014;37(1):32-41.
- Haavik Taylor H, Murphy B. The effects of spinal manipulation on central integration of dual somatosensory input observed after motor training: a crossover study. JMPT,, 2010;33(4):261-72.
- Patent Law-Utility-Federal Circuit holds that expresses sequence tags lack substantial and specific utility unless underlying gene function is identified. In re Fisher, 421 F.3rd 1365 (Fed. Cir. 2005). Harvard Law Review, 2006;119(8):2604-11.
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