Understanding BCEC requires the use of some high school math and physics, along with an appreciation for history.  Over 140 years of research in wound healing has shown that an injury site has a positive electric potential with respect to the surrounding uninjured tissue.  Björn Nordenström has also determined that the electric potential at the center of most tumors is positive with respect to the normal tissue surrounding the tumor.  He realized that a wound, or tumor, had a considerable amount of cell degradation (lysis) occurring at it's center, making this region positively charged and highly acidic.  Therefore, in relation to the surrounding normal tissue, the wound or tumor site had the properties of a wet cell battery, producing a positive potential between the center and periphery of the wound or tumor.

The positive electric potential at the center of the wound or tumor can produce a current in an electrically conductive medium.  As the conductivity of the medium increases, the electrical resistance, that tends to "impede" or restrict current flow (impedance), decreases. 

Thomasset provides a picture (first figure, from: Journal of the IABC, Vol. 1, January-December, 2002) showing high frequency electrical currents flowing through cells, and the lower frequency electrical currents flowing within the interstitial fluid around various cells.  If the source of the electrical potential is an injury site or tumor, the resulting current will be more of a direct current.  In this case, most of the current will flow around the cells within the interstitial fluid medium, and the impedance will be relatively high.  Also, if the electric current consists primarily of ions in motion, the size of the ion would also be an impedance consideration with respect to it's capabilities of traveling through cell membranes, or it's limitations if it is restricted to conductive pathways within the interstitial fluid medium. 

While current is flowing due to the presence of the injury site or tumor site potential, other electrically dependant functions are being influenced by the electrical potential.  Like most cells, white blood cells possess a negative surface charge.  From the standpoint of immune function, the positive potential at the center of the injury or tumor tends to assist immunological response by attracting white blood cells to that location.  The electric field produced by the positive potential of the central region of the injury site or tumor also has an effect on capillary porosity (contraction, which closes the pores of the capillary), as indicated by the second figure.

With cancer, as long as the tumor exists, lytic reactions at the center of the tumor site will promote the continued existence of the positive potential and electric field in the region of the tumor.  As indicated by the second figure, with the tumor acting as a wet cell battery; a conductive path for the flow of a variety of ions (including hydrogen and phosphate ions) exists in various electrically conductive pathways near the tumor site, through interstitial fluids between cells, to porous capillaries, to veins and arteries and back to contracted capillaries near the tumor. 

The primary electrical conduction mechanism is ionic in a large part of the the electrically conductive pathway.  Electron transfer occurs in the membranes of the capillaries that are under the influence of electric field induced contraction.  Under the influence of the positively charged center of the tumor, the transport of charged ions and white blood cells continues, promoting various activities in the healing process.

As shown in the second figure (from German Journal of Oncology, Vol. 33, 2001), a closed-loop circulating current and energy flow is accomplished by the transport of charged particles (ions and electrons), producing slowly varying electric currents in the human body, utilizing various conductive pathways (interstitial fluid, blood vessels, nerve fiber, muscle, etc.).  The healing currents are slowly varying with respect to time (essentially, they are direct currents).  This fact verifies that a Biologically Closed Electric Circuit is involved.  A biologically open circuit cannot support direct current.     

In many of his published papers and books, Dr. Nordenström points out that BCEC activities have a profound influence on structure and function.  The influence of BCEC on function is relatively easy to describe.  Once the injury site or tumor site produces an electric field, immune system function is influenced by the attraction of white blood cells.  Capillary function (porosity reduction due to electric field induced contraction) is influenced by the presence of the electric field produced by the lytic activity near the center of the site.  Function is also influenced by the movement of ions to and from the injury or tumor site.

Structure can also be influenced by BCEC activity.  The photo marked "a" (from: Exploring BCEC-Systems, Nordic Medical Publications, Stockholm (1998)) shows soft tissue radiograph of mammary fat tissue before a 10 V source is applied.  Over a 10 day period, with 10 V and 1.75 mA of current, some endogenously developed fibrosis has disappeared (arrows in "a"), while large amounts of new fibrous tissue have developed (photo "b").  In this case, the application of an electric potential, electric field and electric current have contributed to a change in the internal structure of the soft tissue.

The transport of water by electroosmosis, at the tumor site, can influence structure and function.  The movement of water around various lung tumors contributed to the structural changes Dr. Nordenström first noticed in his X-ray radiographs, that resulted in his development of BCEC theory (see Home page, third photo).  As water is drawn away from the tumor by electroosmosis, the tumor is deprived of nutrients and liquid, and the tumor cells and vascular structure of the water starved region begin to deteriorate. 

Significant changes in cellular structure can also occur with the application of voltages and currents that can occur in BCEC systems.  Dr. Nordenström shows significant changes in mammalian red blood cell morphology with the application of currents at the 1 mA level.  Becker reported evidence of electrically induced dedifferentiation of immature red blood cells at current levels that were in the fraction of a nA range.  O'Clock shows photos of immature red blood cell dedifferentiation at 1 µA, where, over a period of time, the red blood cells make the transition from concave and spoked, to elliptical in shape and finally to a flat amoeboid morphology.  O'Clock and Leonard also show evidence of necrobiosis and loss of cell aggregation properties for lymphoma cells at current levels of 9 µA.

One of the reasons why BCEC theory is so important is that it predicts the fast transport times observed with immune system response.  Conventional chemotaxis models, based on diffusion, are much too slow.  For example, an estimate of the diffusion time (T) that is required for white blood cells to travel 0.2 cm. from a capillary to an injury site can be obtained from the following diffusion equation:

                                  v = dL/dT = (D/L),

where v represents an instantaneous velocity (that is a function of distance) for the white blood cell, L is the distance traveled and D is the diffusion constant.  This relationship was taken from Mombach and Glazier, "Single Cell Motion in Aggregates of Embryonic Cells," Physics Review Letters, Vol. 76, 15 April, 1996.  Using a diffusion constant of 1/100,000 and a distance of 0.2 cm, the estimated velocity of 0.0001 cm/sec., from the equation shown above, would result in a transport time of 2000 seconds (or, approximately 33 minutes) for a cell traveling 0.2 cm. to an injury site.  Using the cell velocity relationship involving chemotaxis coefficient, and attractant gradient, from Farrell, et. al. (Cell Motility and the Cytoskeleton, Vol. 16, 1990); the cell's chemotactic velocity is even slower.  We know the immune system response is much faster than the velocities and resulting transport times predicted by many of the relationships limited to standard diffusion and chemotaxis.  Therefore, another physiological-immunological model for cell motion in healing and regulation is needed, to predict more realistic cell transport velocities and transport times.

Dr. Björn Nordenström's BCEC theory provides the right mix of physiological structure and function to yield a mathematical expression that predicts more realistic cell velocities and response times for the immune system.  Referring to the second figure, the lytic activity at the tumor site can produce an electric potential of 30 mV over a distance of 1 cm.  We can assume that the surface charge density of a 20 µm diameter white blood cell is approximately - 0.02 Coulombs per meter squared.  Combining electric field theory with fluid mechanics, the following non-turbulent flow cellular transport relationship can be utilized:

                              F = (Q)(E) = n(v/d)(A),

Where F is the force on the charged cell due to the injury site electric field, Q is the product of cell surface charge and cell surface area, n is viscosity (approximately 0.007  kg./m-sec. for a body fluid medium), A is the cross sectional area of the cell perpendicular to the direction of travel, v is the cell instantaneous velocity and d is the boundary layer thickness for the 20 µm diameter cell traveling in a fluid medium (in this case, approximately 0.3 µm for laminar flow fluid dynamics).  Applying these numbers to the cellular transport relationship shown above, the instantaneous velocity (v) will be approximately 0.01 cm./sec. With scattering events that cause the cell to deviate in its pathway, the effects of varying pH values on cell surface charge density over the injury site pathway, and the effects of the cell being bound at times to a tissue substrate (2 D transport); the average velocity of the white blood cell will be less than the instantaneous velocity calculated above. However, the average velocity will be still closer to observed immune response velocities that help the white blood cell to reach an injury site much faster than 33 minutes.     


From:  A.L. Thomasset, Lyon Médical, Vol. 21, 1962; R.O.Becker and D.G. Murray, Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 29, 1967; B.E.W. Nordenström, Biologically Closed Electric Circuits, Nordic Medical Publications, Stockholm (1983); G.D. O'Clock, Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium on Biologically Closed Electric Circuits, October 26-29, 1997; B.E.W. Nordenström, Exploring BCEC-Systems, Nordic Medical Publications, Stockholm (1998); G.D. O'Clock, German Journal of Oncology, Vol. 33, 2001; G.D. O'Clock and T. Leonard, German Journal of Oncology, Vol. 33, 2001; B.E.W Nordenström, Journal of the IABC, Vol. 1, January-December, 2002; A.L. Thomasset, Journal of the IABC, Vol. 1, January-December, 2002; P.J. Rosch and M.S. Markov (eds), Bioelectromagnetic Medicine, Marcel Dekker, New York, NY (2004); G. D. O'Clock, Electrotherapeutic Devices: Principles, Design and Applications, Artech House, Boston, MA (2007).