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History of the membrane (pump) theory of the living cell from its beginning in mid-19th century to its disproof 45 years ago--though still taught worldwide today as established truth.

Author information

1
Damadian Foundation for Basic and Cancer Research, USA. gilbertling@dobar.org

Abstract

The concept that the basic unit of all life, the cell, is a membrane-enclosed soup of (free) water, (free) K+ (and native) proteins is called the membrane theory. A careful examination of past records shows that this theory has no author in the true sense of the word. Rather, it grew mostly out of some mistaken ideas made by Theodor Schwann in his Cell Theory. (This is not to deny that there is a membrane theory with an authentic author but this authored membrane theory came later and is much more narrowly focussed and accordingly can at best be regarded as an offshoot of the broader and older membrane theory without an author.) However, there is no ambiguity on the demise of the membrane theory, which occurred more than 60 years ago, when a flood of converging evidence showed that the asymmetrical distribution of K+ and Na+ observed in virtually all living cells is not the result of the presence of a membrane barrier that permits some solutes like water and K+ to move in and out of the cell, while barring--absolutely and permanently--the passage of other solutes like Na+. To keep the membrane theory afloat, submicroscopic pumps were installed across the cell membrane to maintain, for example, the level of Na+ in the cell low and the level of K+ high by the ceaseless pumping activities at the expense of metabolic energy. Forty-five year ago this version of the membrane theory was also experimentally disproved. In spite of all these overwhelming evidence against the membrane-pump theory, it still is being taught as verified truth in all high-school and biology textbooks known to us today. Meanwhile, almost unnoticed, a new unifying theory of the living cell, called the association-induction hypothesis came into being some 40 years ago. Also little noticed was the fact that it has received extensive confirmation worldwide and has shown an ability to provide self-consistent interpretations of most if not all known experimental observations that are contradicting the membrane-pump theory as well as other observations that seem to support the membrane pump theory.

PMID:
18613639
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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