“Chronobiology, as an emerging area, is still new for part of the scientific community, so I am very pleased with the reception of the work since many people were very interested in our results and our research,” said Doctor of Medical Sciences of the Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh), Natalia Méndez, referring to the participation of her research group at Kidney Week in Chicago, United States, at the end of November.
Dr. Méndez recently joined the Center for Aging and Regeneration of the Catholic University of Chile, CARE Chile UC, to work in the laboratory of Dr. Carlos Vio and has been outstanding in her research on developmental chronobiology (a science that studies biological rhythms).
The researcher added that participation in the Chicago Congress “for us, as a research group (UACh group), gave us the great opportunity to spread our work beyond the frontiers of chronobiology, with excellent results from the point of view of its reception, which makes it even more enriching. Chronobiology in renal function and arterial hypertension is a great future issue in which we are at the frontier of knowledge together with CARE. ”
Natalia Méndez graduated from the Universidad Mayor in 2006, and in 2010 she obtained a Master’s Degree in Sciences, emphasis in Pathophysiology. During the first semester of 2011, she entered the Doctorate Program in Medical Sciences at the UACh, obtaining the degree in January 2016 with research work carried out in Developmental Chronobiology, becoming the first Doctor in Medical Sciences of said University.
In her presentation at Kidney Week in Chicago she explained, “Our work entitled ‘Fetal Programming of Renal Function and Blood Pressure by Maternal Circadian Disruption’ is the beginning of our formal collaboration with the CARE Center and the laboratory of Dr. Carlos Vio. The work shows our decision to incorporate renal function and its regulation within what we are experts in, chronobiology or the science that studies biological rhythms.
She added that “the work shows the initial relationship between the alteration of the maternal circadian system and some long-term effects on adult progeny as effects on the kidney with consequences in blood pressure. The work unites two alterations that are very related to our current lifestyle, the alteration of biological rhythms or “Chrono-disruption” and arterial hypertension.
The doctor explained that Kidney Week is the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology, the most important nephrology and renal research congress on the planet, with sixteen thousand participants from around the world and about five thousand papers presented. “It is very interesting to see works of excellence from the clinical area to basic research, and see what is called translational research, from the laboratory to the patient’s bed,” she said.
In relation to the conclusions obtained she said that “The first is that it is an issue of discovery and future research. The second is that chronobiology, as an emerging area, is still new for part of the scientific community, so I am very happy with the reception of our work since many people were very interested in our results and our research.”
INVOLVEMENT IN CARE
When asked about her inclusion into CARE UC, Dr. Méndez said that “I have known Dr. Vio since I was a doctoral student in the Medical Sciences of the Universidad Austral, our program has an important link with the Catholic University. During this period, I did an internship in his laboratory, and I found his work very interesting and original, so I incorporated aspects of renal function into my doctoral dissertation. Thus, I deepened my knowledge in physiology and renal physiopathology and hypertension.
She added that “currently, we collaborate actively and reciprocally, and from our different view of seeing things in the context of biological rhythms and circadian control of all functions (including renal and cardiovascular) and Dr. Vio’s laboratory makes available all the experience and trajectory in renal physiology, an area that we want to study in depth. This is constituted, as I said before, in a frontier issue of the biological rhythms of renal function, handling of sodium and potassium and hypertension.
In detailing her research area, she said that “I was part of the Laboratory of Developmental Chronobiology at the Faculty of Medicine (Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia). To contextualize our work, I must comment that we live in a society called 24/7, taking us to long hours of work, even at times not suitable from the biological and physiological point of view. Examples are people who take night shifts, who are exposed to artificial light during the night and even eat food at totally inadequate times. This population constitutes a clear example of ‘Chrono-Disruption’ or alteration of the different biological rhythms, involving alterations from the physiological, endocrine and even behavioral point of view.
The researcher added that “in fact, there has been an increase in important pathologies such as diabetes, depression, and hypertension in people working night shifts. A group that is not exempt from this alteration are women of reproductive age, who even work with this system during the first months of gestation. The latter can have negative effects on the health of their children in the long term (a concept known as fetal programming). It is in this latter approach that we have put our energy into determining whether this is indeed so. To date, we have demonstrated that circadian disturbance is an adverse environment for the mother and for the progeny who exhibits metabolic and endocrine disruptions into adulthood. The idea of collaborating with Dr. Vio is to be able to deepen our model from the cardiovascular and renal point of view. “
“Recent studies show that the kidney has a circadian clock, i.e. a biological clock that allows the proper functioning of this organ during the 24 hours of the day, allowing the separation of antagonistic functions in a temporal context, that is, it gives an order to the different physiological functions. In fact, several channels and transporters that control the management of sodium and potassium at the renal level have circadian expression, demonstrating that the circadian system plays a critical role in the regulation of electrolytes at the renal level, and suggests that the alteration of these rhythms may have important consequences on renal function, and therefore, also on the control of blood pressure. The fact that the kidney shows this circadian activity allows us to collaborate with Dr. Vio’s group, from our perspective. I think it will generate very interesting things!”
Regarding how they organize to work from Valdivia, she explained that we establish “milestones defined semi-annually and we will execute them per the schedule. Some things we do here in Valdivia and others are done with part of Dr. Vio’s team who travels to do sampling, for example. In addition, I travel to Santiago every month to meet with the group, to see progress, discuss results and organize the work. So far the results have been very positive.”
Natalia Méndez added that “CARE UC has demonstrated an explicit mission of collaboration with regional research centers (Austral, Magallanes, and Antofagasta Universities). It is a great joy for me to join CARE UC and work with Dr. Vio. It is an interesting instance of collaborative research between both universities and of great intellectual enrichment for both parties and especially for me.”