June 12, 2010
Robert Lanza interview on Deepak Chopra Wellness Radio-Sirius XM Stars-Sirius 102 & XM 155 transcript
Deepak Chopra: My special guest is Dr. Robert Lanza and his extraordinary mind, I just finished reading his book Biocentrism and I said to myself, “Finally, aha, somebody that I can totally relate to.” The book is Biocentrism it’s in the bookstores and online bookstores. I actually have it on my Kindle because I read it over and over again. Let me just tell you who Dr. Lanza is if you haven’t heard about him and you should have. Dr. Lanza is considered one of the leading scientists in the world, he’s currently chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology and adjunct professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He has hundreds of publications and inventions and over 20 scientific books. Among them Principles of Tissue Engineering which is recognized as the definite reference in the field. I could go on for a long time giving his credentials. You can just go on Wikipedia and check him out. Dr. Robert Lanza. You know, but some among the few things that really are extraordinary, Dr. Lanza has cloned the world’s first embryo for the purpose of generating embryonic stem cells. In 2001 he was also the first to clone an endangered species (a Gaur) and in 2003, he cloned an endangered wild ox from the frozen skin cells of an animal that had died at the San Diego Zoo nearly a quarter-of-a-century earlier. So take these cells, this information from an animal that no longer exists and create a, resurrect literally an endangered species. Dr. Lanza and his colleagues were also the first to demonstrate that nuclear transplantation could be used to reverse the aging process and to generate immune-compatible tissues, including the first organ tissue engineered from cloned cells. Recently he has generated along with other colleagues something called induced pluripotent cells, so the pluripotential cells are cells that have all possibilities in them. They haven’t committed themselves to each other which is what stem cells are, but human iPS cells that Dr. Lanza created came from skin cells, never been done before, by direct delivery of proteins, this eliminating the harmful risks with genetic manipulation. But today we are going to talk to him mostly about his book and a little bit about these other contributions of his to the world of science. And we have him for the full hour which is a great privilege. Dr. Lanza are you there sir?
RL: Yes thank you, it’s a great pleasure to join you.
DC: No, thank you for joining me and where are you right now? In Boston?
RL: Just outside of Boston in a city called Worcester.
DC: Okay, you know I lived in Boston for 23 years so after my internship I did my… first I did my fellowship/residency at the Lahey Clinic and then I went on to the Deaconess and the VA and you I did… I trained endocrinology and then subsequently neuro-endocrinology so my children grew up there and then I’m so familiar. I miss Boston now.
RL: It’s a very nice city.
DC: Yes. So Dr. Lanza so many things to talk about we’ll get to your book immediately, very soon, but I think you’re on the forefront of stem cells research and just to the audience that doesn’t really understand the significance of stem cells as pluripotent cells that can be literally coaxed into becoming anything. It would be nice to hear your perspective on that.
RL: Yes. It’s a very exciting field and in fact we’ll be filing an IND with the FDA in the next few months to actually use these cells to prevent blindness. We’ve also gotten our research that was published where we show that these cells actually the same human cells we would have actually used in patients when you use them in animals you can actually cut the death rate after a heart attack in half. We could actually restore the blood flow to limbs that would otherwise would have have to be amputated to completely normal in a month. So someday in the near future hopefully rather than having a foot or a leg amputated we’ll just give you an injection of the cells and restore the blood flow. We’ve also created entire tubes of red blood cells from scratch in the laboratory. So there are a lot of exciting things in the pipeline.
DC: Now my imagination says and you must correct me if I’m wrong because I’m not an expert in the field, I’ve been away from academic medicine for quite a bit of time but my imagination says that based on the fact technology including biotechnologies is moving so exponentially, it almost doubles in less than eighteen months, which literally means that in ten years the power of technology and that includes biotechnology could be a million times what it is today. So my imagination says that the day will come when you’ll be able to take perhaps cells from your own skin and then you know derive stem cells as you have already done and inject to replace any organ in the body that is damaged. Is that in the realm of imagination?
RL: Absolutely. Ah. It’s absolutely within the realm of reality probably within the lifetime of most of the listeners to this program. In fact when you combine stem cell technology with the technology known as tissue engineering you can actually grow up entire organs, so as you suggest that sometime in the future you get in an auto accident and lose your kidney, we’d simply take a few skin cells and grow you up a new kidney. In fact this has already been done. We’ve done some work with Tony Atala’s group at Wake Forest where he has actually grown up entire bladders from just a few cells and these have actually gone into patients. Some of our early work with him making primitive kidneys actually was quite successful. So yes, this is real this isn’t science fiction.
DC: I’m speaking to Dr. Robert Lanza, his book is Biocentrism, what is the subtitle of the book Dr. Lanza?
RL: It’s How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe. A mouthful.
DC: (laughs) Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the Universe. We’re going to come to that but getting back to your field which is also tissue engineering. What you just said about stem cells and also in the near future nanobots or nanotechnology which can kind of in a sense move atoms around will probably make it possible to just about repair any organ or replace any organ in the body so that theoretically what you’re saying is that one could probably live indefinitely.
RL: Well the exciting thing and we’ve actually published this data, we’ve actually have created a population of cells known as hemangioblasts, which are…
DC: Ambulance cells.
RL: Yeah they’re like ambulance cells and when you inject these into animals for example that have damaged retina or eyes, if you label them with a dye that’s green you can actually follow them and they will home right to the site of injury and within 24 hours fix that damaged vasculature. Where as in the other that is normal it does nothing. So these are cells that are very smart so that as you suggest by simply injecting these cells they know where to go in the body and repair damage. Be it a heart attack or damage anywhere in your body. In fact we think they might be able to reverse the progression of atherosclerosis and certainly all sorts of other vascular damage.
DC: We’re seeing this amazing, amazing technology almost double almost 12-18 months, the power of technology. It is almost unimaginable what this might be in say two, three decades, or a century from now. But what we’re learning just now from Dr. Lanza is that some of these things that we have been talking about are in our lifetime and in fact as we begin to understand how we extend our lifespan then we may actually one day glimpse even the more advanced technologies that Dr. Lanza has been talking about. You know I had on my show Dr. Michio Kaku who is the person that first described string theory and he’s written a new book called Physics of the Impossible which the Science Channel is going to do a twelve part series on and you know he was basically saying based on what we understand in biophysics and I’m going to come to your take on this later because I agree more with you than with anyone else that I have ever met. Basically what he was saying based on our current laws of understanding, our current understanding of the laws of physics if some thing in the future, some imagined technology in the future does not violate our laws of physics then it is not impossible. It is possible and so he was talking about teleportation, he was talking about parallel universes, he was talking about bi-location, he was talking about time travel even into the past and influencing your ancestors in a way that you could be alive in one universe and not exist in another universe, etc. So you know we’re right at the frontier at the amazing understanding of reality but what you’re saying which has really interested me for a long time. In fact that’s why I left the world of medicine and went onto, on my own and started speaking about consciousness almost 25, 30 years ago I was considered an outcast. At least in my circles. So I stuck with the general public hoping I would be able to share my ideas which weren’t my ideas, which were part of a wisdom tradition that I had grown up with, with people that were not experts. But what you’re saying right now in your book Biocentrism is that the physical universe would not exist unless there was a consciousness in which it could be conceived, constructed, and came into existence. That consciousness is primary and everything else is secondary to that.
RL: Yes, yes. That’s absolutely correct and in addition to that life just isn’t an accident of the laws of physics. There’s a long list of experiments that suggest just the opposite. Amazingly when you add life and consciousness to the equation you can actually explain some of the biggest puzzles of science. So for instance it becomes clear why space and time and even the properties of matter itself depend on the observer in consciousness. In fact when you take this point of view it even explains why the laws of the universe themselves are fine tuned for the existence of life.
DC: I’m speaking with Dr. Robert Lanza, his book is Biocentrism. The publisher is… Who is the publisher?
RL: BenBella Books.
DC: Okay, BenBella Books and we’re going to be featuring it on our site deepakchopra.com so we’re talking about the principle of biocentrism and what Dr. Lanza is saying first of all is that the universe is so fine tuned with certain universal constants that if there was even a slight deviation from those constants we, you and I as biological organisms would not exist. And so it does not seem to be a random accident that started with the Big Bang. In fact you’re also saying that the entire history of the universe from the Big Bang to the moment that consciousness appeared is now an imagined history. That it existed as probability states but not as space-time events.
RL: Absolutely. And as you do point out there’s a long list of traits all the way from atoms to stars that make everything since the Big Bang to the present time appear as though it was tailor made for us. So for instance if the Big Bang had just been one part in a million more powerful the cosmos would have blown out too fast for stars and worlds to form. The result of course is no us. Again there are over 200 parameters so exact that it really strains reason to think that they’re purely random. You tweak any of them and you never existed. So again without biocentrism or introducing consciousness or life into the equation none of this makes any sense.
DC: You know I’ve had on my radio show fortunately some of the greatest minds, academic minds in the world of neuroscience and also in the world of philosophy and consciousness, no one yet has explained to me that when I close my eyes and I imagine a rose or a picture of a red rose or a sunset on the ocean where that picture is? I experience that picture subjectively in my imagination or I can think of my mother and see her face. That experience is not in my brain and you know my brain shows firing of electromagnetic impulses in synaptic networks but now as you point out in your book as well we can look inside the brain through positron emission tomography or MRI’s. We don’t see pictures of sounds or tastes or textures. Those are experiences in consciousness and nobody has been able to actually locate that consciousness. The brain of course shows electrical phenomena but those electrical phenomena are not the experiences and similarly when I look at a red rose instead of imagining it, I see it out there but the experience is in my consciousness not even in my brain because it’s not even in my head. In my head are these electrical impulses. I think all experiences whether we have them all subjectively or objectively are in a transcendent domain which is beyond space and time because as you point out, space and time are also felt-sense experiences and therefore not independent of our consciousness.
RL: Yes you’re absolutely right. You know we think that space and time are these hard, cold objects but if you wave your hand through the air and you remove everything what’s left? The answer of course is nothing so the same thing applies to time. You can’t really put it in a bottle like milk. So if you look at anything say the radio. You can’t see that through the bone that surrounds your brain, in fact everything you see an experience right now is just a whirl of information occurring in your mind and space and time are simply the minds tools for putting it all together. Take something as ordinary as the weather outside. You see a blue sky but the cells in your brains can be changed so it looks red and green. You think it’s bright out but the brain circuits can be changed so it looks dark out. You think it feels hot and humid but to a tropical frog it would feel cold and dry. In any case you get the point. This logic applies to virtually everything. The bottom line is that anything you see could not possibly be present without your consciousness.
DC: You know what you say is just totally music to my ears. You know in the tradition I grew up in: Vedanta they had these beautiful expressions. I’m not in the world, the world is in me. I’m not in the body, the body is in me. I’m not in the mind, the mind is in me. As I curve back within myself I experience my mind in my consciousness I experience my own body in my consciousness and I experience my whole world in my consciousness. So that consciousness exists outside of space-time because it actually conceives and constructs space-time as well and therefore being outside of space-time, transcendent it has no beginning and time, it has no edges in space and therefore it has no ending in time as well. You know the whole goal of Eastern wisdom traditions has been to experience this as our identity. That even when I think about the brain that in thinking about the brain is in consciousness. When I mathematically conceive of the laws of nature they are still in my consciousness. You know you’re coming from a very scientific perspective but essentially saying the same thing.
RL: Absolutely. I couldn’t have said it any better than you just expressed it. We’re arriving at exactly the same point in the book Biocentrism, basically I’m taking all of the existing science and basically I’m arriving unequivocally at the same end point that you’ve just described.
DC: Once again I want to remind our listeners that I’m speaking to Dr. Robert Lanza and he’s the author of Biocentrism but he’s also one of the leading scientists in the world…