Sugar, circadian rhythm and the body clock

Rasmus Reeh, 25, is studying medicine at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH). He is one of the five Danish medical students who – as soon as it is possible – will be sent to the USA to follow the Lundbeck Foundation’s 2020 DARE (Danish American Research Exchange) Fellowship programme.

Rasmus Reeh will be studying and researching at one of the USA’s finest universities, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

‘My research focuses on investigating how blood sugar can affect our circadian rhythm,’ explains Rasmus Reeh:

‘All of the cells in our body are equipped with a ‘clock’. This means that the cells are primed and ready for action when they’re required to do their specific job at an appropriate and predicted time.  This applies, for instance, to insulin-producing cells. It’s clever that they know when we usually eat. They prepare and wrap up the insulin so that it’s ready to be released when it’s time to eat. Our bodies benefit from the fact that the many different groups of cells are primed and ready to do their jobs during the day – to match our circadian rhythm,’ says Rasmus Reeh.

But where does the blood sugar come into the picture?

The answer is that there is evidence to suggest that sugar helps fine-tune the cells’ clocks. Professor Louis Ptácek from UCSF, who will be Rasmus Reeh’s American mentor, has demonstrated this link in cell studies.

Based on these studies, the hypothesis is that the cells’ clocks start running faster when blood sugar levels are high – because the sugar affects a protein involved in regulation of our circadian rhythm.

‘We will now study this in mouse trials,’ Rasmus Reeh explains: ‘The hypothesis also indicates that high blood sugar levels can lead to an irregular circadian rhythm, knocking it out of balance. The consequences of this will be negative because it will be like having permanent jet lag.’

Rasmus will investigate whether this link between high blood sugar levels and disruptions to circadian rhythm actually exists. He will conduct his studies at UCSF, in Professor Louis Ptácek’s laboratory.

Professor Ptácek is one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of sleep and circadian disruption.

Rasmus Reeh will be working on his research with his Danish mentor, Professor Thomas Mandrup-Poulsen, UCPH, who has extensive expertise in circadian rhythm and diabetes research.




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