We have discussed previously the method used to classify the elements in accordance with their predominant biological intervention. The place of the elements in the periodic chart, which establishes the relationship between their structure served as a further basis for this systematization. The capacity to induce changes towards an offbalance of the same type was found to be a common property for elements in the same series in the periodic table. The series could be separated into two groups, one Ht (from heterotropic) inducing an A and the other Hm (from homotropic) inducing a D offbalance. Elements systematized as different periods in the chart have been found to have predominant activity in various compartments or groups of levels which form the hierarchic organization of complex organisms. We have related each element to a compartment (or sometimes even to a level), which didactically is called the compartment (or the level) of the element. We have tried to utilize this systematization in the study of the pharmacological activity of elements.

From the beginning, several basic facts about biological activity became apparent. Often the elements, used as such, do not induce the changes which characterize their physiological activity. Basically elements act in normal physiology through specific compounds suited to the compartment or level to which they belong. In general, knowledge of the level of an element permits us to identify also the proper compound and its activity. The intervention of an element at levels of the organization other than its own can be understood only in terms of the relationship between the element with its characteristic compound the proper level and the compounds present at other levels.

Two factors are fundamental in determining the activity of an element: a) its availability and b) the possibility to enter into its proper combination.

The nature of any abnormality in activity of an element can be recognized only by relating it to these two factors. The amount of the element available and the capacity of entities of the level to which the element belongs to manufacture the proper compound, ultimately governs the amount of the element at its own and at the other levels.

Under normal conditions, the entities of the proper level utilize only the amount of the element needed to maintain the normal constants. The rest of the element usually is eliminated. An excess of the element thus does not induce a permanent excess at the proper or higher levels under normal conditions. Such an excess normally is only temporary. A persistent excess of the element at the proper level and at the higher level indicates an abnormal general availability. A persistent excess at the higher level only corresponds to a qualitative deficiency at the proper level. The organism maintains an excess of the element at the higher level in an effort to compensate for the qualitative deficiency at the proper level. Thus, an excess of an element at the higher level indicates a qualitative deficiency at the proper level, only if the value of this level is found low.

When there are low values at higher levels, we also need to know the amount present at the proper level in order to interpret the abnormality. Low values of the element at higher levels with a low amount of the proper level indicates a quantitative general deficiency, while a high value at the proper level permits us to recognize a qualitative excessive utilization of the element at the proper level. For example, in cancer, copper is low in tumor cells and liver, but abnormally high in blood. When a high amount of copper appears in blood, the diagnosis of a qualitative deficiency in utilization in cells or an abnormal general amount can be made by investigating the amount in cells. A low amount of copper as found in tumors and liver cells in subjects with cancer make the qualitative nature of this deficiency evident. The trouble lies not in too little copper available in the body but in the lack of the capacity of the cancerous cells to manufacture the compound through which copper becomes active, in this case, catalase.

A normal amount of an element at its proper level reflects normal utilization. The pathological amount can result from a quantitative or qualitative abnormality. Any anomaly in an element not only means an inadequate amount of it at its own proper level but in other levels as well. A quantitative deficiency results in an insufficient amount at its proper level. A qualitative deficiency—that is, incapacity of the entities to manufacture the proper compound—also leads to a reduced amount of the element at its own level.

Thus, in both cases, quantitative and qualitative deficiency, the amount of the element present at its own level is low. However, in quantitative deficiency there is also a low amount of the element in the hierarchically superior level, while an increased amount at this superior level occurs when there is a qualitative deficiency at the proper level.

The same opposite variations between the amounts at the two levels is seen in the case of an excessive utilization of the element at its proper level. The amount of the element at the superior level is also high, if a quantitative excess is present but this amount at the superior level is reduced as a means of controlling the excessive utilization at the proper level if a qualitative anomaly occurs. This makes it possible to recognize the quantitative or qualitative nature of the abnormality in utilization of an element at its proper level by determining its amount both at this level and at the next superior level. Too much of the element present at the proper level indicates either excessive amount present or excessive utilization, while too little at the proper level can be due either to a qualitative or to a quantitative deficiency. A low amount at the higher level indicates either a quantitative general deficiency or a qualitative excessive utilization at the proper level. An excess amount at the higher level indicates either a quantitative general excess or a qualitative deficiency at the proper level.