Obesity clues in humans may be unearthed first in a worm

Sep 27, 2011 By Jeffrey Norris

Obesity is not regarded as an epidemic among tiny worms that dine on bacteria — but for humans battling weight gain with seemingly insatiable appetites, research on a soil-dwelling roundworm may lead to clues for weight loss.

The nematode worm C. elegans — which is clearly visible only under magnification — has something to teach us about how we become overweight, according to UCSF researcher Kaveh Ashrafi, PhD.

C. elegans has fewer than 1,000 cells, but despite the worm's simplicity, Ashrafi has identified more than 300 worm genes that play a role in feeding behaviors, metabolism and fat storage. Most of these genes have human counterparts.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

It’s not pot bellies, per se, that Ashrafi sees when he peers at through the microscope — but he does measure fat accumulation in “lipid droplets” with the aid of a red fluorescent dye.

Through gene-deleting experiments Ashrafi is tracking down biochemical pathways and proteins that affect feeding and storage. In addition, he is screening off-the-shelf chemicals – drug prototypes in some cases. In the process his lab team already has identified an unforeseen drug target and a starting point for what might be a new class of fat-fighting pharmaceuticals for the future. Results to date validate his research approach, Ashrafi says.

Explore further: New study brings medicine closer to non-addictive painkillers

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Making skinny worms fat, fat worms skinny

Mar 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers exploring human metabolism at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have uncovered a handful of chemical compounds that regulate fat storage in worms, offering a new ...

Recycling fat might help worms live longer

Sep 06, 2011

Aging is generally accepted as a universal fact of life, but how do humans and other organisms age at the molecular level? At Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham), a team led by Malene ...

Genes help worms decide where to dine

May 19, 2011

In the famous song by The Clash, "Should I Stay or Should I Go," the lyrics wrestle with one of the more complicated decisions people make -- whether to end a difficult love affair or try to make it work. We aren’t likely ...

Study reveals an ancient gene for lean

Sep 04, 2007

Researchers have revealed an antiobesity gene that has apparently been keeping critters lean during times of plenty since ancient times. The gene, first discovered by another team in flies, also keeps worms and mice trim, ...

Genetic research shows degeneration in ageing worm

May 28, 2010

Genetic research focusing on the soil nematode C. elegans has generated fundamental new insights into the way in which these tiny worms age. During the ageing process, the activity of the worm's genes gradually ...

Recommended for you

Researchers bring clean energy a step closer

Feb 27, 2015

For nearly half a century, scientists have been trying to replace precious metal catalysts in fuel cells. Now, for the first time, researchers at Case Western Reserve University have shown that an inexpensive metal-free catalyst ...

The construction of ordered nanostructures from benzene

Feb 27, 2015

A way to link benzene rings together in a highly ordered three-dimensional helical structure using a straightforward polymerization procedure has been discovered by researchers from RIKEN Center for Sustainable ...

Superatomic nickel core and unusual molecular reactivity

Feb 27, 2015

A superatom is a combination of two or more atoms that form a stable structural fragment and possess unique physical and chemical properties. Systems, that contain superatoms, open a number of amazing possibilities ...

Oat breakfast cereals may contain a common mold-related toxin

Feb 25, 2015

Oats are often touted for boosting heart health, but scientists warn that the grain and its products might need closer monitoring for potential mold contamination. They report in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that s ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.