Log In
Thursday 27th October 2016

Obesity linked to nervous system

28th January 2008

Scientists have made some new discoveries about the genetic roots of obesity, a condition which is increasing dramatically in developed countries, and which has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.


Biologists at Canada's Queen's University found that the key to shedding the pounds may lie in the way our nervous systems control fat deposits.

According to William Bendena and Ian Chin-Sang, a specific nerve receptor was linked to food foraging behaviour in small worms, which are used for such research because they have similar neurotransmitters to humans.

The research team made a breakthrough discovery which localised the worm's receptor to one specific connecting nerve cell, enabling them to breed populations in which this receptor was deleted.

Worms that had the receptor deleted lost interest in foraging for food, became slow-moving, and accumulated fat at a much higher rate than non-modified worms.

The difference only became obvious when both groups were placed directly on food. The altered worms stopped their normal foraging behaviour, slowed down dramatically and put on fat far more quickly than worms with their receptors intact.

Worms with extra copies of the receptor became hyperactive and moved large distances away from their food.

The research, published in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was undertaken to address a lack of scientific data about how neuron connections might work, either as stimulators or inhibitors, in various organisms.

Bendena and Chin-Sang concluded that the receptor must be an inhibitory switch within one connecting cell, and that worms defective in the receptor will gain fat.

They said such clear behavioural and physiological changes had never been seen nor understood before.

They said they hoped further research would look further into the relationship between the nervous system and obesity.

The research, to which Jeff Boudreau, Tony Papanicolaou and Matt Maltby; and Stephen Tobe from University of Toronto also contributed, was partially funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


Share this page


There are no comments for this article, be the first to comment!

Post your comment

Only registered users can comment. Fill in your e-mail address for quick registration.

Your email address:

Your comment will be checked by a Healthcare Today moderator before it is published on the site.

Mayden - Innovative cloud-based applications for healthcare
© Mayden Foundation 2016