How ion channels drive the powers of a Jedi

Hello to all ion channel aficionados, Star Wars enthusiasts and space explorers.

It’s May 4th – the long-awaited Star Wars Day. And before you dive into rewatching your favorite moments of this iconic saga, let us ask you a question:

Do you think the incredible powers of Jedi in Star Wars are purely science fiction, or could there be some truth to them?

And while you reflect on the answer, we’ve got a new theory to share with you.

So, in Star Wars, there’s this concept known as “The Force”, which is an invisible mystical energy field that enables Jedi to move objects and influence others from afar. Obi-Wan Kenobi describes it as “an energy field created by all living things”, suggesting that we ourselves generate the Force, and the Force, in turn, affects us.

Deeply committed fans know that Jedi harness the Force through midi-chlorians, microscopic organisms residing within all living cells.

Interestingly, in a 2019 interview, George Lucas explained that “midi-chlorians are the equivalent of mitochondria in living organisms.” It appears that they produce energy that strengthens one’s connection to the Force; the more midi-chlorians you have, the deeper your connection.

So, here is our theory:

Midi-chlorians, which are actually mitochondria, produce energy inside cells in the form of ATP. This ATP is then utilized by the Na-K ATPase to maintain the resting membrane potential and create ionic gradients, driving ions through ion channels to produce currents, action potentials, and electric fields.

Although single-cell-generated fields are weak, under certain conditions, they can significantly impact the electrical activities of neighboring cells.

This remote cell-to-cell communication is known as Ephaptic Coupling. It does not require direct contact or chemical neurotransmitters but depends heavily on the proximity between cells and the density of ion channels.

In cardiomyocytes, ephaptic coupling occurs within the narrow intercellular spaces of intercalated discs, facilitated by densely packed Nav1.5 channels near gap junctions. In the brain, it influences the synchronization and timing of neuronal action potentials and plays a role in epileptic synchronization.

It seems that our cells harness the Force and can influence the activity of nearby cells from a distance.

And it turns out that Jedi superpowers are nothing more than the ability to leverage the ephaptic coupling but at a higher, organismal level.

So why than can’t we influence others like Obi-Wan Kenobi?

According to the lore, it’s likely because we lack sufficient midi-chlorians/mitochondria in our cells.

Jedi Masters have at least 4,000 midi-chlorians per cell, with Anakin Skywalker boasting over 20,000—far surpassing the 100-2,000 mitochondria typically found in mammalian cells.

What do you think of this theory?

Perhaps one day, we might unlock methods to fully harness this Force within ourselves.

Until then, may both the Force and Ephaptic Coupling be with you, always!