What does the electrical impedance of blood signify? (Stanford Research, O3 / ATP / Na+ / K+ / Cl-)

Jesse2233

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Hey everyone,

I spent the weekend up at Stanford talking to researchers, giving samples, as well as a good amount of time talking with Ron and Janet (a profound experience I will write about elsewhere).

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One of the things discussed at Stanford and with Ron was the electrical impedance assay which continues to accurately separate CFS patients from healthy controls.
  • It's not yet known why this is happening, and the assay has not yet been tested on other diseases (e.g POTS, Lyme, MS, Lupus, Hep C, HIV), or healthy individuals in fatigued states (e.g. students post finals, athletes after competitions).

  • While researching ozone therapy I discovered a study indicating ozone (O3) treatment can help improve the electrical conductivity of stored blood by modulating levels of ATP, Na+ / K+ / Cl- (1).

  • A separate study found that as the shelf life of stored blood increased, its electrical resistance dropped along with the capacitance of cell membranes and the product's viability for blood transfusions (likely due to RBC lesions) (2).
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This led me to wonder if blood conductivity is a marker for:
  1. Overall health, illness, and energy states

  2. A distinct biomarker for CFS

  3. Levels of ATP and electrolytes

  4. Statistical noise due to electronic variance

  5. A complex combination of factors relating to measuring instrumentation, genetics, subject health (e.g. mito function, blood flow, chronic pathogens, autoimmunity, biotoxicity), inscrutable fluctuations in biochemistry, and random electronic variance

  6. Something else entirely
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The major caveats here are:
  1. More research needs to be done as sample sizes have been small and limited in scope

  2. The two studies above were looking at stored (ex vivo) whole blood conductivity whereas Stanford is looking at individual cell impedance under induced stress

  3. Biochemistry and electrical engineering are two disparate fields whose connections are still in the nascent stages of understanding
 

place

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I want to comment but this is new to me, did not know there was a current. I do wonder if earthing or “grounding” helps. Some people swear by it.
 

kangaSue

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Recent studies have shown the existence of a strong correlation between electrical impedance and viscosity of blood. My uneducated guess is that this will have something to do with affecting RBC deformability thereby interfering with microvascular tissue perfusion (ischemia).
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2914348/
 

Jesse2233

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Recent studies have shown the existence of a strong correlation between electrical impedance and viscosity of blood. My uneducated guess is that this will have something to do with affecting RBC deformability thereby interfering with microvascular tissue perfusion (ischemia).
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2914348/
Very interesting, thanks for sharing Sue!

From the paper:
The electrical measurements under various stimulating frequencies show that the electrical properties of different blood components vary with the flow conditions, and can thus be used as a measure of the rheological behavior. To this extent, the correlation of the apparent viscosity of whole blood and its electrical resistance measured by the device could be performed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2914348
 

halcyon

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Hasn’t it been well over a year since the impedance abnormalities were reported? How is it that they still have not tested a single other disease for this abnormality? My guess is that other diseases that involve immune activation (e.g. depression, MS, etc.) will show similar irregularities to a greater or lesser degree.

I don’t see the similarity between blood conductivity and the test that Ron is developing. His test measures change in impedance in white blood cells in response to a metabolic stressor (forcing ion pumps to burn ATP). I don’t see this applying to red blood cells since they don’t even contain mitochondria.
 

Wishful

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Electrical impedance is simply a scalar value. It can be affected by a huge number of factors, so by itself it represents very little information. It certainly isn't of much use as a marker. If you take two samples of a material, such as blood, and change only one factor, such as potassium chloride content, then the impedance change represents that one factor. Blood from two patients, or even one patient at different times, varies by so many factors that you have no idea why the impedance changed.

Electrical impedance might be a useful for detecting a change in blood, but it's not going to be useful for determining whether someone has a specific disease. There's no "3.81567 ohms = ME/CFS and 5.69977 = healthy" ratings. Our blood impedance varies too much due to too many factors. BTW, the same holds true for those popular quackery tests that measure skin impedance. Sweat a bit more or clench your hands a bit more and the impedance changes, and the artistically labelled dial moves from "Colon Cancer" to "Huntington's", or whatever.
 

used_to_race

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Electrical impedance is simply a scalar value. It can be affected by a huge number of factors, so by itself it represents very little information. It certainly isn't of much use as a marker. If you take two samples of a material, such as blood, and change only one factor, such as potassium chloride content, then the impedance change represents that one factor. Blood from two patients, or even one patient at different times, varies by so many factors that you have no idea why the impedance changed.

Electrical impedance might be a useful for detecting a change in blood, but it's not going to be useful for determining whether someone has a specific disease. There's no "3.81567 ohms = ME/CFS and 5.69977 = healthy" ratings. Our blood impedance varies too much due to too many factors. BTW, the same holds true for those popular quackery tests that measure skin impedance. Sweat a bit more or clench your hands a bit more and the impedance changes, and the artistically labelled dial moves from "Colon Cancer" to "Huntington's", or whatever.
If they can look at individual cells and detect repeatable differences in impedance between healthy controls and patients, then that is a finding that speaks to many changes that might occur during infection. I don't think that it's useful as a biomarker. Given the observations of rheological changes in many chronic illnesses, it probably indicates that inflammatory processes in general would change the properties of cell membranes and the structure of organelles and endoplasmic reticulum. This would in turn change the impedance of the cells. It makes sense that this would scale up to affecting the impedance of a sample of blood in general, but I agree it doesn't tell you much about the underlying processes.

On the other hand, I don't think it's fair to compare this project at Stanford with skin impedance testing, and the claims being made by each group are very different as well. Ultimately I am glad they are looking at other things because I don't think this will lead anywhere. But I don't have a background in molecular biology, just a degree in electrical engineering...
 

Wishful

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The electrical impedance of cells is useful for testing hypotheses, such as "does this chemical (or viral infection or whatever) affect the cell in a way that changes impedance". You could use this to test thousands of factors to see which restore the impedance to the 'normal' value, or which cause a normal cell to change to the 'bad' value. While that wouldn't necessarily identify a factor as a valid treatment, it could at least reduce the number to test more fully. It's just another tool in the researcher's toolbox.
 

used_to_race

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The electrical impedance of cells is useful for testing hypotheses, such as "does this chemical (or viral infection or whatever) affect the cell in a way that changes impedance". You could use this to test thousands of factors to see which restore the impedance to the 'normal' value, or which cause a normal cell to change to the 'bad' value. While that wouldn't necessarily identify a factor as a valid treatment, it could at least reduce the number to test more fully. It's just another tool in the researcher's toolbox.
Is there a precedent for doing this in medical research? Do experiments like this ever result in a benefit in vivo?
 

Wishful

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Antibiotic research is an example: set up many dishes of food and bacteria with a sample of a potential antibiotic and look for dead patches. Many will work in vivo but not in vitro, but it cuts down the number of potentials for doing the more expensive in vitro testing.


BTW, @used_to_race , I wasn't comparing the cell testing to skin testing as quackery; it's just that both are simple measurements that simply can't provide complex information. Using cell impedance as a binary test (normal/abnormal) can be useful. Imposing a scale with dozens (hundreds?) of diseases on a simple ohmmeter reading is just wrong.