Monday, December 15, 2014

A worm's way of controlling fat production at cellular level-Can this work in humans?

Furious research by different scientific groups at different places are slowly unfolding many ways to control uncontrolled fat deposits in human body which hopefully will lead in too distant a future some practical and universal treatment protocol for obesity affected people. Though there is almost unanimous agreement that consuming a healthy diet containing whole grains, fruits, vegetables and moderately eating animal derived food products, can preempt unnecessary accumulation of fat in the body, humans are not that strong willed to think about good health while opting for their daily foods. Organoleptic quality of food overwhelms them and tasty, flavorful and palate tingling foods are invariably made using high levels of ingredients like saturated fat, sugar, salt added singly or in combinations that can convert a healthy food into a "risky" one capable of spawning deadly diseases like CVD, blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and others. If obesity levels have reached dangerous proportions we have thank ourselves as well as the food industry as a whole for bringing about reckless changes in out dietary habits. One of the on-going studies for evolving a treatment regime for obesity affected "patient", published recently looked at a worm for getting the necessary "inspiration" to achieve the desired result. Read further below for getting an idea about the thinking process in the minds of these researchers and how successful they have been so far. 

"Research around how the body's fat levels are regulated and ways in which they might be manipulated has uncovered numerous potential fat switches. The latest is a particular protein that has long been known to regulate protein synthesis and has now been demonstrated to also control fat levels in worms. This has lead researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) to believe that the version found in the human body could provide a new target for fat-fighting pharmaceuticals. Scientists have studied the MAF1 protein for some time, but this has largely been limited to its ability to control the production of other proteins. In a study conducted at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, scientists found that the protein is actually capable of much more. "We've known about MAF1 for over a decade, but so far people have only studied it in single cells, where it is known to regulate protein synthesis," says Sean Curran, assistant professor at USC Davis and on of the study's co-authors. "No one really looked at its effect on the whole organism before." Curran and his team modified the MAF1 levels in transparent worms known as C. elegans and found that adding a single copy of the gene expressing MAF1 lowered stored lipids by 34 percent. Conversely, lowering MAF1 levels saw lipids boosted by 94 percent. The fact that the version of MAF1 in humans has the same protein-producing properties leads the researchers to suspect that it, too, could control the storage of fat cells. If this proves correct, the protein could offer a target for a new breed of pharmaceutical treatments for obesity and weight-related health problems. One other notable finding was that the MAF1 protein can also impact on lipid metabolism in cancer cells, suggesting that it could be used in suppressing cancer cells. Curran's team next plans to test the fat-fighting ability of MAF1 in mice. If successful, they hope to eventually investigate its potential in humans." 

Is it not a pity that man has to be guided by a worm to overcome his weakness vis-a-vis food gluttony and its disastrous consequences? May be man is a fast learner from the nature and this little worm might show the way to go, though the vastly complex human system may not be as receptive as the worm to new ideas to stop or reduce fat manufacture in the body. Still it is worth trying as for those "drowning", even a straw can be a relief! There are bound to be innumerable practical difficulties in repeating the positive results obtained with worms and it may take a few years before clinical trials are completed after further studies with animals. As MAF1 is a protein, how it can be delivered to cell sites in humans through the oral route remains to be seen. Any how the above study does raise a ray of hope for millions of fatty people with high BMI requiring urgent treatment to save their lives!   


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