Luc Montagnier in the Caroline Institute (Karolinska Institutet) in Stockholm, December 7, 2008
The French virologist Luc Montagnier became widely known for his discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in 1983. In 2008, he and his colleague Françoise Barré-Sinoussi were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this discovery1.
Luc Montagnier was born on August 18, 1932 in the small town of Chabris in the center of France in the family of an accountant. As the scientist said, his childhood was tremendously affected by two events2. At the age of five, Montagnier was hit by a car and, after two days in a coma, he seemed to be reborn. Another event that left an indelible mark on the scientist's memory was, of course, the Second World War. The Montagnier family was starving, and the boy had to see many dead, wounded, and prisoners of concentration camps, all of which made him hate wars for the rest of his life2. His grandfather's death from cancer and the agonizing development of the disease, which Montagnier witnessed, had a major impact on the choice of his future profession. In addition, his father was an avid scientist and experimented with electric batteries in his spare time.
In his senior years at school, Luc was already interested in science. Following his father's example, he set up a chemical laboratory in the basement of his house, where he synthesized hydrogen gas, sweet-smelling aldehydes and nitro compounds (but not nitroglycerine) 2. Montagnier was also interested in atomic physics, but human biology attracted the future scientist the most2. Since there was no such specialty at the time, Montagnier received a bachelor's degree from the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the University of Poitiers in 1953, and a master's degree from the University of Paris in 1955.
Montagnier's career began at the Sorbonne, where he first worked as an assistant in the Department of Physiology, and in 1960 defended his thesis in medicine. He then worked in the UK, where he and his English colleagues made some significant discoveries in virology at the time. They demonstrated that viral RNA, like DNA, can also be replicated – self-replicating, building a second chain on the basis of the first. The study of oncogenic viruses (viruses that potentially lead to tumor development) has greatly advanced cancer research. Notably, it was because the scientists applied a new environment for the cultivation of cancer cells - agar, red algae extract, which is plant analogue of gelatin. After returning to France in 1965, Montagnier resumed his research in the field of viral oncology as head of the laboratory at the Curie Institute, and in 1972 as director of the new Department of Virology at the Pasteur Institute2.
The problem of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) was addressed by Luc Montagnier in 1982, when it was suggested that this new fatal disease, which suppresses the human immune system, may be caused by a previously unknown virus2. The first cases were reported in the United States in 1981, and soon similar symptoms became apparent in patients in other countries, including France2. Montagnier team suggested that this new virus could be the one of so-called retroviruses. Using the techniques applied while working with those, the scientists were able to isolate the new retrovirus from the blood of AIDS patients and describe the new virus that they called LAV (lymphadenopathy-associated virus). The results of this work were published in May 1983 in Science Magazine3. In addition to describing the new virus, scientists hypothesized that it could be the cause of AIDS, but were still unsure of that3. Montagnier and his colleagues have demonstrated that the virus affects certain cells of the immune system, CD4+ T-lymphocytes, and identified them as the main target for the virus2.
It is noteworthy that, independently of the French scientists, the HIV virus was discovered at the National Cancer Institute in the United States by Robert Gallo’s team. American researchers mistakenly attributed it to the group of HTLV-viruses (Human T-lymphotropic viruses) and called it HTLV-III. Gallo team confirmed the close connection between the new virus and AIDS and found antibodies to the virus and its other variants in the blood of patients2.
Over time, the identity of LAV and HTLV-III was revealed, and Montagnier and Gallo recognized the mutual paternity in the discovery of HIV and renounced their own names, agreeing to a new one - the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) 2. However, as already mentioned, the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the HIV virus was awarded to Montagnier and his colleague Barré-Sinoussi, since they had published their results earlier than Gallo.
The UNESCO World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention was established in 1993 with the direct involvement of Luc Montagnier, who remains its irreplaceable President4.
In 2000s, Luc Montagnier's research direction suddenly changed, as, according to the scientist, he managed to find a new DNA property – the emission of low-frequency electromagnetic waves (LFEMW) 5. It all began with the discovery of the unusual properties of the HIV satellite bacteria Mycoplasma pirum, which (like the HIV virus) is a "lover" of human lymphocytes. The scientist was surprised to find that if we filter out the culture of this bacterium and then incubate the pure filtrate free from M. pirum with human lymphocytes, the bacteria will grow again! 6 It would seem that this cannot be the case. Scientists began to check the filtrates, trying to find some feature that could be at the heart of the observed phenomenon. Thus, it was found that filtrates with some dilution in water (10,000 times or more) emit LFEMWs (500-3,000 Hz), which are the result of resonance with natural electromagnetic noise (when isolated from it, the "radiation" of seep liquids disappeared) 6.
Scientists suggested that nanostructures formed in water under the influence of the DNA of pathogenic bacteria, and not even the entire DNA, but certain parts of it, the genes, should be used as a probable source of the registered LFEMWs. Further, they were able to show that other pathogenic bacteria and viruses, including the HIV virus, can "radiate"6,7, but that "good" bacteria, such as probiotic Lactobacillus, do not possess this property6.
Montagnier received impressive results while checking whether the recorded LFEMWs carried an information load. He placed two tubes under a weak electromagnetic field (imitating a natural electromagnetic background) for 18 hours, one emitting LFEMWs (diluted filtrate of M. pirum or DNA of HIV) and the other with sterile water not emitting LFEMWs6,8,9. The scientist was quite surprised to discover that, after this period of time, the tube with sterile water began to emit LFEMWs as well! Moreover, when added with the necessary substrates for DNA synthesis, it was possible to synthesize the DNA identical to that in the first tube! 6,8,9 This result seems incredible, but Montagnier testifies to the extreme reproducibility of this phenomenon. He suggests that, thanks to LFEMWs, a unique matrix is created in a sterile water tube from water nanostructures, as if it was a DNA imprint from the first tube, enabling the "reconstruction" of DNA. Therefore, LFEMWs transmit information8,9.
Obviously, it raises a lot of questions, such as, how could the DNA polymerase, a special enzyme that builds DNA, "read" the water matrix? What mechanisms are responsible for maintaining a specific water structure for a prolonged period of time? How do non-specific LFEMWs form a structure specific to each DNA in water? In order to answer these and many other questions, Montagnier actively cooperates with physicists who try to explain the observed phenomena from the point of view of the water structure theory based on quantum field theory8,9. However, so far these are only theoretical assumptions. Montagnier's results regarding LFEMW DNA and their data transmission, which have caused a great deal of controversy among scientists10-12, still require confirmation by other independent laboratories, and the mechanisms underlying these controversial phenomena need to be proved experimentally. If so, the existing laws of physics and chemistry should be revised.
As for Luc Montagnier himself, he sees great potential in his research of recent years, both for basic and clinical science8. He believes that previously considered non-communicable diseases of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, rheumatoid arthritis and others may be of infectious origin, since he has managed to detect LFEMWs in blood plasma of the patients suffering from these diseases. This would allow us to not only offer new types of treatment for these diseases, but also use LFEMWs as a marker for diagnostics4, 8.
In addition to the Nobel Prize, Luc Montagnier has received more than 20 major awards, including a Knight of the Légion d'Honneur, the Lasker Award for Medical Research (1986), the Gairdner International Award (a precursor to the Nobel Prize, 1987), the Japan Prize (1988) and others. In 2010, Luc Montagnier was offered an honorary professor position at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and an institute named in his honor4.
2. Montagnier L. 25 years after HIV discovery: prospects for cure and vaccine (Nobel lecture). Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2009. 48(32): 5815-26.
3. Barré-Sinoussi F., Chermann J. C., Rey F., Nugeyre M. T., Chamaret S., Gruest J., Dauguet C., Axler-Blin C., Vézinet-Brun F., Rouzioux C., Rozenbaum W., Montagnier L. Isolation of a T-lymphotropic retrovirus from a patient at risk for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Science. 1983. 220: 868-871.
4. Newsmaker interview: Luc Montagnier. French Nobelist escapes 'intellectual terror' to pursue radical ideas in China. Interview by Martin Enserink. Science. 2010. 330(6012): 1732.
5. Montagnier L. DNA between physics and biology. DNA waves and water. Lindau Nobel laureate meeting in Germany, 28 June, 2010.
6. Montagnier, L., Aïssa, J., Ferris, S., et al. (2009). Electromagnetic signals are produced by aqueous nanostructures derived from bacterial DNA sequences. Interdiscip. Sci. Comput. Life Sci. 1: 81–90.
7. Montagnier, L., Aïssa, J., Lavallee, C., et al. (2009). Electromagnetic detection of HIV DNA in the blood of AIDS patients treated by antiretroviral therapy. Interdiscip. Sci. Comput. Life Sci. 1:245–253.
8. Montagnier, L., Aïssa, J., Del Giudice, E., et al. (2011). DNA waves and water. J. Phys. Conf. Ser. 306:012007.
9. Montagnier L, Del Giudice E, Aïssa J, Lavallee C, Motschwiller S, Capolupo A, Polcari A, Romano P, Tedeschi A, Vitiello G. Transduction of DNA information through water and electromagnetic waves. Electromagn Biol Med. 2015; 34(2):106-12.