roundworm that rapidly consumes its own fat could help researchers develop new
treatments for obesity in humans.
Roundworm. Photo by Josh Grosse, 2002.Researchers
from McGill University in Canada investigated how normal roundworms
react to extended periods of starvation. Normally, the worms go into a state of
suspended animation called "dauer." By slowing their metabolism and shutting
down cell division and reproduction, the worms can survive for up to six months
The key to
this ability is that the worms stock up on large amounts of fatty lipids,
storing it in special cells.
McGill researchers Richard Roy and Patrick Narbonne discovered that roundworms with a
certain mutation cannot adjust their metabolism like normal roundworms do. Even
though the mutant worms store six months' worth of lipids, as soon as they
enter dauer, they consume all the fat in a few days.
scientists explain that the mutant worms lack an enzyme that is supposed to
regulate a lipase. Without regulation, this lipase burns up all the fat in the
worm's body extremely quickly.
step, the researchers say, is to begin looking at this enzyme in humans, and
see if they could develop drugs to temporarily stop the enzyme from regulating
the fat-burning lipase, thereby allowing the lipase to tear through lipids on a
researchers hope that the discovery will have significant implications for
human health, especially individuals with obesity or diabetes.
via: McGill University