Research explores the effects of nuclear magnetic resonance on internal clock of cells

A research collaboration between the Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the University of Oulu, Finland, the University of Innsbruck, Austria, and Florida Tech, USA, explored the effects of nuclear magnetic resonance on the internal clock of cells at different times of day and under oxygen deprivation. Surprisingly, they found that the clock could be both turned on and off depending on whether the treatment was administered during the day or at night. These observed magnetic field effects stem from quantum biological processes known as the radical pair mechanism.

Elitsa Dimova and Thomas Kietzmann from the Hypoxia and Extracellular Matrix Research Unit at the University of Oulu, Finland, along with Margit Egg and Viktoria Thöni from the Institute of Zoology in Innsbruck, and spin biochemist Robert Usselman from Florida Tech, USA, conducted the experiments.

In their study, the researchers exposed mouse cells to therapeutic nuclear magnetic resonance (tNMR) to investigate the long-suspected effect of weak magnetic fields on the internal clock of mammalian cells. Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging is a streamlined version of MRI, combining a weak magnetic field with a corresponding radio wave that stimulates the hydrogen protons of irradiated cells and tissues to oscillate. The energy transferred during this process is then released back to the cells after therapy. Due to the significantly weaker magnetic field and lower radiofrequency, tNMR treatment is entirely non-invasive and has been used for two decades in treating conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and wound healing.

Previous findings by the Oulu group had shown that oxygen deprivation can influence metabolism and the internal clock, with oxygen radicals playing a significant role. Results from the Austrian group indicated that magnetic resonance can alter the entire cell metabolism, including downregulating lactate metabolism while stabilizing cell respiration despite oxygen deficiency. In the latest study by the two teams, it was demonstrated that the internal clock of cells can be turned on and off in parallel.

This effect depends on the time of day the treatment is administered, whether in the early morning hours or the first half of the night. Depending on this, the internal clock is either activated or deactivated."

Elitsa Dimova, Hypoxia and Extracellular Matrix Research Unit, University of Oulu, Finland

The interface between the physical magnetic field and the living cell proved to be the oxygen radical superoxide. Since the internal clock, like the oxygen signaling pathway, plays a central role in diseases such as heart attack, stroke, or cancer, these research findings expand the medical treatment spectrum.

New approaches to quantum biology and medicine

Further studies will clarify whether the magnetic field, the radio waves, or the combination of both in the form of tNMR are responsible for the observed effects. The results are also of interest to quantum biology, providing new insights into the so-called radical pair mechanism. This mechanism has already been used to explain the ability of migratory birds to navigate using the Earth's magnetic field. "Our latest studies now show that the radical pair mechanism not only underlies the magnetic sense of migratory birds but can also explain a growing number of magnetic field effects in cells that have enormous therapeutic potential, including the control of the internal clock, which plays a role in many diseases," explain the researchers.

"Quantum biology has been an established field of research for decades, but it is still often associated with esotericism in the public eye," explains Margit Egg. "Quantum biology deals with all processes in living organisms that cannot be explained by the laws of classical physics but only by the principles of quantum mechanics. Both teams aim to further develop quantum biology in the future. This brings the University of Oulu closer to the University of Surrey in the UK, which currently offers the world's only doctoral program in quantum biology and with which active exchange is sought. Further collaborations and exchanges of personnel will also involve the group of Gabriela Lorite at the Microelectronics Research Unit. Several students have already shown great interest."

The results were published in the prestigious journal Redox Biology. Financial support for the research was provided by MedTec Company, Wetzlar, Germany/Lifco AB, Sweden, the University of Innsbruck, and the Research Council of Finland Profi funding decision PROFI6 336449 "Fibrobesity."

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