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Old Genes Roundup

December 28, 2007

Ancient genes influence how much fat our cells store.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (HOST):
A billion years of fat. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Genes are sections of DNA that perform a particular task. Some are fairly recent. But two, described in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, date all the way back to our single-celled ancestors. Called FIT1 and FIT2, the genes determine how much fat cells store. Blocking these genes in zebrafish results in fish that can eat a high fat diet and still stay skinny. The researchers hope that studying the genes will lead to new treatments for obesity and related illnesses.

In other news, researchers have found that an enzyme in the gut that was thought to help us digest food actually breaks down a toxin produced by bacteria. Deficientcies in theis enzyme might be responsible for a variety of intestinal ailments, like irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the Science Society.