Wednesday, January 03, 2018 by Zoey Sky
Like other cells in the body, red blood cells follow circadian rhythms (24-hour biological clocks). These circadian rhythms alter cell activity from day to night. But unlike other cells, red blood cells do not have DNA. Red blood cells also lack the “clock genes” which control rhythms. It was a mystery when it came to how red blood cells were regulated.
However, thanks to dielectrophoresis, a revolutionary technique and new technology developed at the University of Surrey, scientists have deciphered the electrochemical properties of human red blood cells. We now know more about their inner workings.
Scientists have reported that there is a significant variation in potassium content in the cells which are related to the circadian rhythm. Potassium increases during the day, and it decreases at night.
Once the potassium levels of the red blood cells were changed, the scientists successfully increased and decreased its levels in the cell to monitor the effect of the changes on their circadian rhythms. Red blood cells with higher levels of potassium negatively impacted the circadian rhythm of the cell. On the other hand, lower levels helped extend the duration of the cell’s alleged “day” by several hours.
Dr. Fatima Labeed, Senior Lecturer at the University of Surrey and the study’s lead investigator, says that thanks to this unique discovery, we can now look into the inner workings of “red blood cell membrane physiology and its clock mechanism,” especially where ion transport is of utmost importance. She concluded, “The study of circadian rhythms in red blood cells can potentially help us understand when and why heart attacks mostly occur during the morning. We will be looking into this further in our forthcoming studies.”
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