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NEWS OF THE WEEK

N E W S M A K E R I N T E R V I E W : L U C M O N TA G N I E R
Q: Many of your colleagues seem to be
extremely skeptical.
French Nobelist Escapes ‘Intellectual L.M.: Well, I was skeptical myself in the
beginning. But these are facts. The findings
Terror’ to Pursue Radical Ideas in China are very reproducible and we are waiting for
confirmation by other labs.
PARIS—Virologist and Nobel laureate Luc duces structural changes in water, which
Montagnier announced earlier this month persist at very high dilutions, and which Q: You have called Benveniste a modern
that, at age 78, he will take on the leader- lead to resonant electromagnetic signals that Galileo. Why?
ship of a new research institute at Jiaotong we can measure. Not all DNA produces sig- L.M.: Benveniste was rejected by everybody,
University in Shanghai. What has shocked nals that we can detect with our device. The because he was too far ahead. He lost every-
many scientists, however, isn’t Montagnier’s high-intensity signals come from bacterial thing, his lab, his money. … I think he was
departure from France but what he plans to and viral DNA. mostly right, but the problem was that his
study in China: electromagnetic waves that results weren’t 100% reproducible.
Montagnier says emanate from the highly Q: What do you think are the potential
diluted DNA of various pathogens. medical applications? Q: Do you think there’s something to
Montagnier, who won a 2008 Nobel L.M.: I have found these signals coming homeopathy as well?

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Prize for his discovery of HIV, claims that from bacterial DNA in the plasma of many L.M.: I can’t say that homeopathy is right in
those signals—which he described in two patients with autism, and also in most, if not everything. What I can say now is that the
little-noticed papers in 2009—can reveal the all, patients with Alzheimer, Parkinson’s dis- high dilutions are right. High dilutions of
bacterial or viral origins of many conditions, ease, and multiple sclerosis. It seems that the something are not nothing. They are water
including autism and Alzheim- structures which mimic the origi-
er’s disease. The work could sug- nal molecules. We find that with
gest novel therapies, he says. DNA, we cannot work at the
But Montagnier’s new direc- extremely high dilutions used in
tion evokes one of the most homeopathy; we cannot go further
notorious affairs in French sci- than a 10-18 dilution, or we lose the
ence: the “water memory” signal. But even at 10-18, you can
study by immunologist Jacques calculate that there is not a single
Benveniste. Benveniste, who molecule of DNA left. And yet we
died in 2004, claimed in a 1988 detect a signal.
Nature paper that IgE antibodies
have an effect on a certain cell Q: Can’t you pursue this research
type even after being diluted by in France?
a factor of 10120. His claim was L.M.: I don’t have much fund-
interpreted by many as evidence ing here. Because of French
for homeo pathy, which uses retirement laws, I’m no longer
extreme dilutions that most sci- allowed to work at a public insti-
entists say can’t possibly have a tute. I have applied for funding
biological effect. After a weeklong investi- bacteria we are detecting are coming from from other sources, but I have been turned
gation at Benveniste’s lab, Nature called the the gut. So it is quite possible that products down. There is a kind of fear around this
paper a “delusion.” from gut bacteria end up in the plasma and topic in Europe. I am told that some people
Science talked to Montagnier, who is cause damage to the brain. have reproduced Benveniste’s results, but
founder and president of the World Foun- The waves give us a biomarker to test for they are afraid to publish it because of the
dation for AIDS Research and Prevention, the presence of these bacteria, even when we intellectual terror from people who don’t
last week. Questions and answers have been can’t detect them with classical techniques understand it.
edited for brevity and clarity. like PCR. So when we treat these diseases
–MARTIN ENSERINK with antibiotics, our hope is to see the patho- Q: Are the Chinese more open to it?
gen disappearing. One idea is to set up a clini- L.M.: I think so. I have visited Jiaotong Uni-
Q: Why are you going to Shanghai? cal trial in autism here in France. We will first versity several times, and they are quite open-
L.M.: I have been offered a professorship and show that we can detect bacterial DNA in the minded. The editor-in-chief of [Interdisciplin-
a new institute, which will bear my name, to plasma of autistic children and not in a healthy ary Sciences: Computational Life Sciences,]
work on a new scientific movement at the control group. Then, if we get agreement from the journal in which I have published two
crossroads of physics, biology, and medicine. an ethical committee, autistic children can papers on this topic, is based there as well.
The main topic will be this phenomenon of be treated with antibiotics to see whether
electromagnetic waves produced by DNA in the DNA signal disappears and their clini- Q: Aren’t you worried that your colleagues
water. We will study both the theoretical basis cal condition improves. In the future, we may will think you have drifted into pseudo-
CREDIT: NEWSCOM

and the possible applications in medicine. use these findings not just for diagnostics but science?
also for treatment. It’s possible that electro- L.M.: No, because it’s not pseudoscience.
Q: What exactly are these waves? magnetic waves at some frequency will kill It’s not quackery. These are real phenomena
L.M.: What we have found is that DNA pro- the waves produced by bacterial DNA. which deserve further study.

1732 24 DECEMBER 2010 VOL 330 SCIENCE www.sciencemag.org


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