A new measurement system for bioenergetics.

Dear Vladimir,

Can you please briefly explain, what do you mean by information (geometrical) energy (measured in eV instead of J). You mentioned this in your interview. It would be very interesting if you could explain this stuff at the conference in Ljubljana. regards, Igor Kononenko

Dear Igor,

The more I go deep into academic bioenergetics, the more I understand the major flaw in its initial principles. The unit of energy adopted in biochemistry is Joule -- the unit of mechanical work equivalent to heat, measured in calories. All this is o'key for heat machines, where this or that quantity of burnt coal produces that much heat and a certain part of it is transformed by the machine into work. The rest is dissipated into heat of lower specific energy contents according to the second law of thermodynamics. From this it follows that as soon as you or me consume a certain quantity of food containing N kcal (determined by the quantity of heat released after complete food burning in an oven), we can perform M Joules of work (M<N). And because of this all the energy from biochemical reactions is also measured in kcal.

In no way I want to undermine the importance of heat production in biological systems, but it should be realized that even if some heat is used for some useful functions performance, in general, it is the final product (together with CO2 and H2O) of biological processes. It is released into the environment when a particular biological process is already concluded. But when all the biological processes are concluded in a given living system it can not be already regarded as a living one. In fact, heat is a purely statistical measure of energy, while all the processes in the organism proceed in temporarily and spatially directed and organized modes. Besides, if to penetrate deep into elementary molecular processes in biological systems, one can see that all these processes proceed in an oscillatory manner. The most bright example is a nervous impulse.

But that it is only one single example of many new emerging. Take, for example, the process of oxygen consumption. Each one inhale is followed with expiration. It is so customary. But each single cell takes oxygen in a similar manner, and when the normal rhythm is violated, it suffers as we suffer when for some reason breathing becomes irregular. All our movements are based on muscle activity, and that on the activity of molecules able to retract. They function in a purely oscillatory manner. Let us turn to intracellular informational flows.

Only recently it was realized that calcium oscillations arising in response to hormones and neurotransmitters action upon a cell are not some exotic phenomenon. Cell responds to frequencies of oscillations rather than to their amplitude. Now we are coming to understanding that even deeper underlying processes, those related to the reactions of reactive oxygen species should be considered both as energy supplying and bioregulatory. In the course of ROS reactions products in electron excited states are generated, their energy is transformed into collective oscillatory modes, providing regulation of myriad of biochemical reactions. Here we come to two basic modes of information production, its transmission and acquisition: analogue and digital modes. Both are important, but the thing is that current biochemistry acknowledges only the analogue mode - the dose-response dependence. However, I came to the conclusion that the digital mode is not less, but may be even much more crucial for information acquisition and processing by the living system.

Take human speech, for example. Of course, amplitude (loudness) of another persons speech is important for understanding what he is talking about. But I think that that the contents of the message is more related to frequency patterns, than to its intensity. In any case even if information comes to a person in an analogue form, it is transformed into a digital one by the nervous system which can work only in this latter mode. You may think that I started from talking about bioenergetics and insensibly slipped to bioinformatics. In fact, the two are indivisible. No information may be generated, transmitted, received, processed and reacted to without energy utilization. I insist that genuine bioenergetics can not be considered seriously without its informational (in-formation) aspect. Thus, biologically relevant energy can not be measured in Joules or kcal. What kind of energy processes in physics most closely correspond to bioinformational energy flows? To my mind, these are processes that proceed in quanta modes. Quanta are traditionally measured in electron-volts. We are accustomed to use electron-volts only for the measurement of the energy of photons and electrons, but there is no taboo to measure in ev energy of any oscillatory processes, even if the energy content of quanta of either mirowave radiation energy packages, or, say, phonons is very small. But the acceptance of this unit of energy can underline digital character of such form of energy.

Unfortunately, usage of electron-volts or any alike energy unit is insufficient. These units do not expose another important feature of biological energy quanta - their geometric character. I claim that unlike heat energy, which is scalar, biological energy is essentially vectored: a photon or photon package propagates directionally, especially if it is generated in an anisotropic milieu of a living system. Its trajectory may be very complicated, but in any case it turns into a message only when it is received by an appropriate information receptor localized in a specific time and place. I understand that the latter considerations are still very preliminary, and need a lot more consideration and refinement. In any case, I think that the time has come to impeach energy units currently accepted in biochemical bioenergetics - Joule and calories from their dominating positions. I do not insist that they should be immediately replaced with electron-volts, though I do not see now the better choice. Probably there are more appropriate units of biological energy-information of which I am not aware, and I'll be very glad to discuss other possibilities.

My very best wishes, Vladimir Voeikov