The Vitamin Kid

Avoiding bad medicine and finding non-toxic treatments that actually work

My Photo
Location: Ankeny, Iowa, United States

Friday, December 01, 2006

Diabetes, part 1 -- blood flow

"Diabetes is associated with several long-term health problems, involving many different areas of the body. Poor control of blood-sugar levels makes these problems more likely to occur, yet they can develop even in people who have perfectly managed diabetes." (source)

One of the problems diabetics face is increasingly poor circulation. This is a multi-faceted problem. One little-known facet, the subject of today's blog post, has to do with red blood cell shape.

Some of the tiniest blood vessels, called capillaries, are actually smaller in diameter than the red blood cells which must pass through! How is this possible? You can't fit a square peg in a round hole, and neither can you fit a blood cell through a blood vessel that is smaller in diameter. Or can you?

The shape of a normal red blood cell is biconcave. (I was told, but have not independently confirmed, that the shape of an "ideal" read blood cell can be described by a mathematical formula known as the Oval of Cassini. Now you can impress your friends at parties.)

That means a red blood cell is like a Certs breath mint, disc shaped, except that it has a central dimple in both sides like a SweeTart candy. Because the blood cell is flexible, not hard like a candy, and because the dimples in the cell help improve the cell's flexibility, it can bend slightly and squeeze through the capillary.

All well and good, unless you are diabetic. Dr. L.O. Simpson from New Zealand has been studying this problem for years. He said that the erythrocytes (red blood cells) of diabetics are less flexible, and this contributes to poor circulation. He took fresh blood, fixed it with a chemical, and looked at the cells under an electron microscope, counting and classifying the shape of the cells. He also performed microfiltration experiments, showing that diabetic blood took longer to pass through a micropore filter. He concluded that poor red cell "deformability" -- the ability of the cell to squeeze down a bit to pass through a tight space, impairs diabetic circulation.

Some Japanese researchers observed this directly.

Dr. Simpson said that diabetics had a high proportion of cells which were shaped like discs, with no dimples. Simpson took pictures of their blood cells with the electron microscope.

Here is a normal red blood cell with a nice dimple in the middle:

Here is a cell similar to the red cells seen in diabetics, with flat tops and bottoms -- no dimples:

Although I am not diabetic, I sent my blood to New Zealand and got an electron micrograph photo of my very own red blood cells. I also had a large number of flat cells, in addition to some other strange shapes. Is there any way to fix this problem and help get more blood flowing? Stay tuned...



Post a Comment

<< Home