Obesity and Mutant Worms

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.

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7 Responses to “Obesity and Mutant Worms”

  1. nursemyra Says:

    Time to roll out the old advertisements…

  2. Skybluepink Says:

    This is truly fascinating. Nature holds so many answers…We just need to know where to look…The ultimate treasure hunt.

  3. Shefaly Says:

    The one thing that cannot be said often enough about obesity – there is no silver bullet, no single cure or pill. For once, it is complicated and we can’t reduce it down no matter how much we wish.. :-(

    Note to self: finish that book pronto..

  4. The Necromancer Says:

    nursemyra: Love the ad. Bizarre.

    Skybluepink: Indeed, exactly what I was trying to get at. Life is all about seeing, and ways of seeing.

    Shefaly: All I suggested was that these findings “could provide insights”. Undeniably obesity is a complex and multi-factorial disease. Most are. As much as modern medicine likes to celebrate them, there are very few single-shot “magic bullets” out there…

  5. fevah Says:

    I suppose that if your diet only consisted of worms you’d lose weight rather quickly. :-)

  6. kerrjac Says:

    Parasites are amazing creatures…Like a virus only with skin. Even though this specific anomaly might have been a mutation, I’m sure that the evolutionary science behind parasites is downright fascinating.

    Consider these 2 recent, vastly different theories about parasite/human immune interaction:

    Boston Globe


    I don’t buy all of them, but they’re thought-provoking to say the least.

    It’s interesting because the immune system is the hodge-podge end-result of lots of evolutionary fighting. With the elimination of most parasites in non-3rd world countries, modern medicine mostly on bacterial-fighting versus viral-fighting aspects of the immune system. But it’s starting to look the anti-parasite tools might play a large role even in parasites’ absence…Or overlooked presence.

  7. The Necromancer Says:

    kerrjac: Interesting comment. The research wasn’t on this human-parasite relationship, however. I believe the scientists are hoping to gain insight into the process of fat burning by close observation of these worms and their particular physiological mutation. The connection you point to is probably much more fascinating anyway…

    And quite thought-provoking.

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