The research partnership between the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and Dr Joe will celebrate its two-year anniversary in February 2022. In helping to de-mystify the impact of the mind on the body, what has been achieved in under two years has been nothing short of amazing, leading the research team to thousands of additional questions and subsequent experiments.
From the level of population science (analyzing data from large demographics) down to the identification of a single factor in the blood of meditators, the team is working diligently to finish the “Mind Over Virus” story to more clearly define the role of meditation in the protection against COVID-19. This paper will be available as a pre-print by January 2022 and will be submitted for review for publication at a major scientific journal.
In the meantime, the laboratory continues to forge ahead in defining new areas of research and discovery. In thinking about the effects of meditation on our mind and brain, on our body, on our community and on the world, the research team is continually designing new experiments. Here are three:
A few months ago, the research team was discussing the concept of structured water and thought to try a pilot study with a meditation group of advanced students who meet periodically in San Diego. They brought three water bottles (Fiji-plastic; Proud Source-aluminum; San Pellegrino-glass) to one of the group’s weekly meditations.
With about 25 meditators present, the bottled waters were placed in the center of the room. The participants were given only one instruction, “Put your intention on the center of the room.” A reference sample was collected from each bottle and kept in the lab prior to the meditation. The meditation that the group practiced was one of the advanced Synchronizing Your Energy meditations.
The reference and meditation samples were later scanned on an electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) machine which can look at spectra with changing microwaves. The water from the meditation room looked very different from the reference water in the laboratory, the biggest change being observed in the aluminum container.
Based on this, the research team expanded the water study at the recent Denver Advanced Follow Up Retreat and included different metal containers (copper, aluminum, and stainless steel) as well as plastic. All bottles were filled in the UCSD laboratory with deionized water or Nestle Pure drinking water from the laboratory office. A set of bottled waters were kept in the UCSD laboratory, while three sets traveled to Denver. Out of the bottles that were taken to Denver, one set remained in the hotel room, one set was placed in the back of the event ballroom, and one set went under Dr Joe’s stage in the front of the room.
Upon return to UCSD, the water was scanned on the EPR machine and showed unique changes based on metal source and location. This would suggest that the effects of collective meditation could be captured and measured in media such as water, and that collective meditation has the potential to change matter. The laboratory is currently testing if this water has additional unique physical changes (i.e., crystal formation) or can impart biological properties (i.e., change in cell physiology and energetics). This data will be presented at a future retreat.
The research team continues to make strong progress on the analysis of blood from novice and advanced meditators vs controls. The main focus is on a multi-omic characterization of the plasma in their blood. The proteomic data suggests that the experience of meditation creates a unique but common internal experience that has the potential to create an epigenetic signature among individuals. Through the analysis, the research team noticed the plasma proteins change in similar patterns in individuals irrespective of age, sex, or ethnic background. The team is in the process of confirming this by assessing two specific genetic signatures:
1. DNA methylation patters
2. RNAseq analysis
DNA methylation results from the transfer of a methyl group to the C5 position of the cytosine to make 5-methylcytosine, creating a unique and stable modification that regulates the expression of genes. RNAseq measures the unique changes in gene expression at the RNA level. Coupling the analysis of proteomics, RNA, and DNA methylation will give a complete picture of the blood marker changes that happen with meditation. The team expects these patterns to identify distinct network hubs that could be functionalized to enhance or guide a meditative experience. They also anticipate uncovering factors in the blood that have the potential to counter disease. Their preliminary results are truly astonishing.
It has been said, “Your life is your gut.” The gut is a major regulator of your biology, and some studies suggest that the bacteria that reside in your gut are a major control point for your health. For instance, your gut bacteria releases factors that regulate your sleep, mood, food intake, and many other basic functions. In this regard, your gut bacteria function as a “mini brain” that needs to be understood and studied. These gut residents are various and many.
There are 300-500 types of bacteria in your gut – ranging from 50-100 trillion total organisms – which contain millions of genes. These are referred to, collectively, as your gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is dynamic and can shift in drastic ways in an environment of health vs one of disease. From this perspective, it may be a unique window into your health status, allowing the research team to determine if meditation has an impact on the microbiome.
To study these factors, the scientists undertook a pilot study around the time of the Denver Advanced Follow Up Retreat, looking at subjects in the San Diego meditation group of advanced students. Of the 60 or so eligible individuals, only 16 signed up for the study. The big hesitation was that for the sake of science and running a controlled study, the participants would have to give up meditation for seven days before the baseline collection. The 16 committed individuals undertook this process and struggled through the meditation fast. The initial collection was on day zero of the study.
Many of the participants expressed how much meditation meant to them when they were finally able to engage in meditation again, and thus upon reinstating their practice many reported having amazing experiences in doing the work. Of the 16, five attended the Denver Advanced Follow Up Retreat, where the study continued.
The group was allowed to meditate as much as they wanted during the retreat and the second and final collection happened on day 7. The samples were frozen and are currently at the UCSD Microbiome Core undergoing shotgun metagenomics analysis. The team expects to have data in the next few weeks and hopes to present the preliminary data at the Marco Island Week Long Advanced Retreat in January 2022.
There has been so much interest in this study, the research team is expanding it (including collection of Garmin biometric data as well as cheek cells for epigenetic analysis), hoping to get samples from around 1000 people who will attend the Marco Island Week Long Advanced Retreat in January 2022. It is amazing to imagine the rich data and information that could come from such a broad, collective, and all-encompassing study to understand the individual and collective meditative experience.
In closing, Dr Joe and the research team are very excited about publishing their scientific paper in January 2022. They will be featuring the results of their two-year study on COVID-19 and the effects that meditation has on immune function. Dr Joe will be hosting a free Livestream during the Marco Island Retreat, where he and the team will reveal the exact protein that they discovered in the blood plasma that creates a resistance to the virus as well as some of the COVID variants.
Please join the Livestream on Friday January 14th. Mark your calendar; details to follow.