DNA could act as an antenna in electromagnetic communications

Posted by Lydia Leavitt

A theoretical physicist has presented research that shows bacteria might transmit electromagnetic signals to produce species-specific wavelengths. 

According to research presented by Northeastern University physicist Allan Widom, based on existing knowledge of DNA and electrons, bacteria can indeed communicate.

"For a long time, there have been signals in water. Something is happening around a kilohertz," explained Widom, lead author of a paper posted Apr. 15 on the preprint website arXiv.

"You have to look for natural energy levels in the system that would give you a kilohertz frequency. With the lengths of DNA and the mass of the electron, you get the right frequency range for these signals."

The idea of bacterial radio transmissions was first presented by French virologist Luc Montagnier in 2009. He explained how inductor coils wrapped around flasks of bacteria-enriched water hooked up to an amplifier, sent out signals in the 1 kilohertz range.

Montagnier was met with criticism, especially after he went more in depth to describe signals causing loose pieces of DNA to assemble into bacteria-like structures. He also speculated on "nanostructures" in water, which he linked to neurodegenerative diseases.

Although not all of Montagnier’s claims were supported by the scientific community, the original assumptions of bacteria-enriched water is considered sound by Widom. For him, the next question is how bacteria produces electromagnetic waves around 1 kilohertz.

Widom, among other physicists, calculate that as electrons flow through loops of DNA in E. coli and M. pirum as tested by Montagnier, they generated similar wavelengths to what was originally recorded.

"Different species have different lengths of DNA" in their chromosomes, he said. "These lengths probably determine frequency."

Wired added, "Widom noted that electromagnetic radio transmissions were not in principle so different from electron transmission between bacteria connected by nanowires. Such bacteria have been described in recent years; their nanowire-enabled transmissions allow networked microbes to communicate."

"This could be a wireless version," said Widom. "Bacteria that set up nanowires are, on an evolutionary scale, fairly old. It’s occurred to me that more modern bacteria may use wireless."

Widom hopes to figure out whether cells in higher life forms might use electromagnetic signaling, for example in coordinating DNA code with protein-making cellular machinery.