Nav: Home

Scientists uncover crucial biological circuits that regulate lipids and their role in overall health

November 13, 2018

Tiny microscopic worms, invisible to the naked eye, are helping scientists to better understand an extraordinarily complex biological pathway that connects fat to overall health and aging in humans.

A team of biologists from McMaster University studying these worms called C. elegans, or nematodes, has found that the regulation of lipid production, and the delicate balance of too much or too little fat, is crucial to healthy living.

The findings, published online in the journal PLOS One, point to a fundamental process of lipid regulation that happens in the WNT signalling pathway, a widely-studied genetic thoroughfare that, when mutated, is directly linked to a variety of cancers.

The nematodes provide an ideal model of human systems, say scientists, they reach maturity in less than 72 hours, living no more than three weeks in total, allows researchers to obtain results of experimental manipulations relatively quickly.

"We get to see the entire life history in less than a month and then we can ask questions about how genes are functioning within this system and what changes are taking place as the animals are growing and maturing," says Bhagwati Gupta, a professor of biology at McMaster, whose lab has been studying nematodes for almost 15 years.

Gupta and his team--co-authors Avijit Mallick and Ayush Ranawade, both PhD candidates--were puzzled and intrigued when they initially discovered that nematodes carrying a defective WNT pathway gene had low lipid levels and died much earlier. Further experiments confirmed that when the worms were fed with a high-fat component of olive oil, called oleic acid, the lipid levels recovered and they subsequently lived longer.

The findings have uncovered a novel genetic control of lipid maintenance and its potential connection to lifespan. The team is currently working to understand how the newly discovered genetic mechanism links lipids to aging.

The implications could be significant, the researchers say. For example, the pathway could be manipulated by drugs to restore fat levels or targeted for better treatments of lipid-related conditions that occur during aging and diseases such as hypertension, metabolic syndromes and glucose intolerance.

"Aging is very complex. Things start to go wrong in all directions as we age," says Gupta. "Susceptibility to disease increases, the genes start to function poorly over time, muscles start to degenerate, our physiology changes, fat distribution and accumulation become abnormal, metabolic rate goes down, and we tend to eat less. Basically, all kinds of unwanted things begin to happen in the body," he says.

"There are so many ways organisms age and I would say this is the challenge for researchers: how do we identify critical processes or factors inside cells that could be manipulated to not just live longer but healthier?"
-end-
Attention editors: A video explaining the research can be found here: https://youtu.be/yxzK67IibPQ

A copy of the study can be found at this link: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0206540

McMaster University

Related Aging Articles:

A new biomarker for the aging brain
Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research (BDR) in Japan have identified changes in the aging brain related to blood circulation.
Scientists invented an aging vaccine
A new way to prevent autoimmune diseases associated with aging like atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease was described in the article.
The first roadmap for ovarian aging
Infertility likely stems from age-related decline of the ovaries, but the molecular mechanisms that lead to this decline have been unclear.
Researchers discover new cause of cell aging
New research from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering could be key to our understanding of how the aging process works.
Deep Aging Clocks: The emergence of AI-based biomarkers of aging and longevity
The advent of deep biomarkers of aging, longevity and mortality presents a range of non-obvious applications.
Intelligence can link to health and aging
For over 100 years, scientists have sought to understand what links a person's general intelligence, health and aging.
Putting the brakes on aging
Salk Institute researchers have developed a new gene therapy to help decelerate the aging process.
New insights into the aging brain
A group of scientists at the Gladstone Institutes investigated why the choroid plexus contains so much more klotho than other brain regions.
We all want 'healthy aging,' but what is it, really? New report looks for answers
Led by Paul Mulhausen, MD, MHS, FACP, AGSF, colleagues from the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) set looking critically at what 'healthy aging' really means.
New insight into aging
Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) of McGill University examined the effects of aging on neuroplasticity in the primary auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes auditory information.
More Aging News and Aging Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.