Worms May Offer Clue to Obesity

Study of their genes might give answers about how humans store and use fat

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WEDNESDAY, Jan. 15, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Worm genes may help scientists understand how fat is stored and used in humans.

A study in tomorrow's issue of Nature examined the genetic makeup of one particular worm to come to that conclusion.

Massachusetts General Hospital scientists and their colleagues searched thousands of genes in the Caenorhabditis elegans. They found hundreds of promising gene candidates that may lead to a better understanding of fat storage and use in other kinds of animals.

C. elegans shares many genes with humans. The worm has let scientists learn more about diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. Many of the genes that regulate fat storage and use in C. elegans have counterparts in humans and other mammals.

The study is the first survey of an entire genome for all genes that regulate fat storage. To identify these genes in C. elegans, the researchers inactivated genes one at a time and then looked for changes in fat content in the worms.

They identified about 300 genes that, when turned off, reduced body fat and about 100 genes that, when inactivated, increased fat storage. About 100 of those 400 worm genes have human counterparts.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about fat.

SOURCE: Massachusetts General Hospital, news release, Jan. 15 2003

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