Researchers, led by biologist Richard Roy at McGill University in Montreal, have discovered that a mutation in a species of roundworm — the well-known C. elegans — may hold the key to fighting obesity in humans. The new and amazing world of genetic medicine has been given another clue to the physiological process of obesity from a strange and unusual source. What is so fascinating about this discovery is that the worm in question exhibits characteristics that are the result of mutagenic processes — they literally eat up their fat reserves (which also speeds up their cellular systems leading to an early death). The worm, in other words, is a mutant. A freak. That word “freak” is not so inappropriate in this case since it reminds of the amazing and unpredictable quality of living things. Of their inherently emergent tendency. This wasn’t an evolutionary process that could be controlled, it was a (un)fortunate fluke, possibly providing insights that have far reaching consequences for the future of medicine and the fight against diseases like obesity and diabetes.
Mother Nature is truly, unendingly fascinating in her forms and transformations. Much as this is solid biological research, there is something “mystical” about the whole thing, too.
The results were highlighted last week in Nature.