Monday, February 16, 2009

How Can Worm Offer Clues on Heart Attack?

Worm can offer clues on heart attack. This statement sounds a bit weir or simply unbelievable. Not really, especially after you have read the following report.

The fact that worms can survive with almost no oxygen has actually provided a clue for the scientists on how to rescue oxygen-starved cells in human who have a heart attack or stroke.

Recently, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis identified a gene, which can help cells slows down when oxygen levels get too low. By so doing, the cells are protected from making fatal mistakes when there is a lack of oxygen. Their findings were published on January 29, 2009 in journal Science.

According to the researchers, in the event of stroke and heart attack, cells will die because of lack of oxygen, and they are trying to find new approaches for the understanding of why this would happen.

In the study, genetic engineering techniques on worms called Caenorhabditis elegans were employed to locate genes, which help them survive better with little oxygen. Eventually, a gene that could be ‘turned down’ in the worms was identified and this would help the worms survive with little oxygen. Normal worms would just die if they were exposed to the same conditions.

The gene was located in the mitochondria, or powerhouse of the cells. The researchers believe that the cells might be protected if they are put into some kind of hibernation so that they do not require much oxygen.

In a second experiment, the research team also figured out how genes fold proteins, by making them into the shapes they need to function best. It was found that improperly folded proteins could die, and in fact, low-oxygen environments have been associated with high levels of unfolded proteins. The experiment also showed that slowing down the cell could also help prevent damage caused by faulty proteins.

Meanwhile, they plan to carry out further study to see if the same approach can help nerve cells in mammals. Should that happens; it is possible for scientists to target this process for therapy. It is hoped that someday drugs would be designed to help human cells survive without oxygen.

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