DALLAS (AP), September 25 — Here’s how this is supposed to work: Things happen and science explains why.
But sometimes things happen that science can’t explain. And serendipity leads the way.
It’s when someone like Dallas scientist Tony Wood, struck with a fatal disease, finds himself unwittingly offering hope for his own despair.
For years, Wood put his tinkering, connect-the-dots mind to work for companies like Texas Instruments, filing dozens of patents and focusing on improving conditions for the less fortunate.
Fifteen years ago, he co-created technology to help grow plants in water that more recently has shown surprising, if mysterious, promise in treatment of neuro-inflammatory diseases such as muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s and asthma.
This past year, safety studies were being conducted to pave the way for medical use of his device when Wood found himself struggling to shuffle cards or use the TV remote. Within months, he found he had ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The disease has progressed unmercifully fast. Wood, 69, cannot lift his arms or move his legs. He can barely speak and uses his chin to operate his wheelchair. So discouraged by the disease’s rapid effects and his inability to tinker anymore, he was ready to give up.
Then he realized that ALS was among the set of diseases for which the oxygen-infused saline created by his technology could be potentially revolutionary.
He felt he had reason to live again.
With the Food and Drug Administration’s approval, he’s volunteered to be his own guinea pig. He’s now a one-man research trial, working with a UT Southwestern Medical Center neurologist and a product he himself made possible.
As he puts it: “I am my own experiment.”
In the late 1990s, Wood was in his garage, trying to find ways to rapidly fold gases into liquids. Though he didn’t yet realize it, the machine he would devise marshaled the forces of “nanobubbles,” microscopic bubbles that science says shouldn’t exist. And yet, somehow they do.
Plant growth was already accelerated in hydroponic environments. What if you could infuse that water with oxygen? What could that do for food production in remote Third World communities?
He and engineer Norm Wooten devised a prototype, and the so-called “food machine” is now at work in Cambodia.
“I certainly did not start out wanting to find a nanobubble,” Wood said. “All I wanted to do was put more oxygen in the water.”
But in time, others considered the technology’s potential medical uses; in 2007, Stanford University researchers showed that oxygen-infused saline could produce steroid-like anti-inflammatory results.
Pursuing failure might seem futile to some. But for a man who is now a lab rat for his own invention, an invention based on a phenomenon that scientists say shouldn’t exist — well, maybe that’s more like faith.
The experience, Wood said, has given him a deeper spiritual understanding of himself.
“I am much more than flesh and bones,” he has written. “I am an active, participating human, aware of being in service to others.”
# # #
The Robert A. Stehlin Campaign for ALS (R.A.S.C.A.L.S.) is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) charity. 100% of all funds raised go to building awareness, treatment research and development, plus ALS family assistance. There are no administrative costs.
Contributions are tax-deductible.
You may also be interested in visiting the RASCALS Store.
The material presented here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice, or relied upon as a substitute for medical advice from a health care provider.