It’s been many decades since we abandoned the barbaric practice of trying to cure mental illness with electric shock treatment. So it’s more than a little ironic that we’ve finally discovered that electricity is indeed a cure for many dread diseases that plague mankind.
Admittedly it’s a somewhat bizarre form of power, called ferro-electricity, found naturally in mammalian tissue. At its simplest, it’s all about polarity. The impact of ferro-electricity is that the orientation of molecular components in cells can be changed by electrical fields. It’s always been there – but now we’re learning to precisely manipulate it.
The first breakthrough has effectively ended the scourge of ‘bad’ cholesterol. New electric bio-drugs simply remove cholesterol’s ability to stick to the walls of arteries. Game over!
But perhaps most astonishing is that we can indeed cure mental illness by electricity, of the ferro kind, through subtly altering the molecular behaviour of particular brain cells.
Electricity has always had a mystical quality for humans – perhaps because it is the essence of our species. We learned more than 200 years ago that our systems were driven by electrical impulse, when Italian scientist Luigi Galvani pumped charges into dead frogs to make their legs twitch.
In the words of a more modern scientist – “We are electricity.” And electricity is leading us to more and more cures. The impact, and potential, is enormous.
Pharmaceutical companies that for years have made vast profits from drugs such as those to manage cholesterol have found their markets collapsing in a matter of months. The new ‘electric’ drugs are shockingly inexpensive, which means they can be widely deployed in both private and public healthcare.
But the greatest impact is overwhelmingly positive, far beyond the pain of diminished corporate profits. Treating heart conditions caused by lifestyle has been an appallingly expensive burden on health services. Suddenly, with that burden lifted, vast resources are being freed to tackle the remaining serious illnesses we face.
It was electricity that metaphorically led mankind out of the darkness into the light. Now, perhaps, it will illuminate the pathway to a new era of global wellbeing.