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Biological Chemistry

Link Found Between Burning Fat And Living Longer

Worm studies show that chemical signals from reproductive stem cells influence fat metabolism, which impacts longevity

by Sophie L. Rovner
November 10, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 45

Harvard Medical School molecular biologists have found an unexpected link between reproduction, fat metabolism, and aging in the much-studied worm Caenorhabditis elegans (Science 2008, 322, 957). Gary Ruvkun, Meng C. Wang, and Eyleen J. O'Rourke report that the worm's reproductive stem cells from which eggs or sperm are derived send biochemical signals to intestinal cells to increase the storage of fat. The researchers showed that ridding a worm of its reproductive stem cells—for instance, by using a laser to destroy the cells—interrupts the signaling. That interruption enhances production of a lipase enzyme known as K04A8.5, which metabolizes intestinal fat. In turn, the increased fat metabolism extends life span. In an accompanying commentary in Science about the Harvard work, Ting Xie of Stowers Institute for Medical Research, in Kansas City, Mo., writes that if a similar link exists in people, "we may discover more about how life span is controlled in humans and perhaps find better treatments for age-related diseases."


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