According to a new study published in Nature Communications, human red blood cells (RBCs) circadian rhythms may be regulated by Potassium. Concentrations of Potassium in RBC increased during the day and declined at night. These significant fluctuations in RBC Potassium levels followed the circadian rhythms.
Pharmacological chemicals were used by researchers to either block or increase the Potassium ions transported to the cells. RBC concentrations were analyzed using DEP (dielectrophoresis). By changing the Potassium levels in the cells, researchers were able to block or extend the circadian cycles.
Unlike other cells, RBC do not contain DNA. Up until this study the mechanism of RBC circadian regulation has been a mystery. This study, the first of its kind, actually used external manipulation to change the circadian rhythm period. Researchers believe these finds may eventually lead them to understand why the frequencies of cardiac events are higher during the early hours of the day.
Past research shows interruptions in the internal body clock is associated with higher risks for chronic diseases and an impairment of the inflammatory processes.
Further studies are needed and may be expanded to determine whether the status of Potassium may be relevant in sleep disorders. Prior studies have shown oral supplementation of Potassium may increase sleep efficiency.
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