Research Digest

Lab notes: A transport protein manages the amount of fat circulating in blood

The finding has implications for the understanding and treatment of heart disease.

The very mention of triglycerides or cholesterol makes us think of heart disease. Although these molecules are circulating in our blood all the time, their amount needs to be precisely controlled for us to remain healthy. A group of Indian scientists has figured out mechanism by which liver maintains a balance of triglycerides in blood.

Triglycerides are main components of fat, and molecules called very-low-density lipoproteins, or VLDLs, carry them. Although liver works efficiently to control amounts of triglycerides in blood, the mechanism by which it does so has remained unclear. Scientists at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Mumbai, Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune have deciphered this crucial mechanism.

Researchers have identified the role of a motor protein, Kinesin, in this mechanism. Kinesin acts as a carrier of lipid droplets that contain fat molecules and assists in transport and secretion of triglycerides outside the liver cells. It has been shown that insulin regulates this secretion. Since the amount of insulin varies with food intake, so does the secretion of triglycerides into the blood.

During fasting (when we have not eaten for a long period or when we are sleeping), kinesin detaches from lipid droplets. There is no secretion and thus fat accumulates in liver while the reverse happens during the “fed state”. This maintains the amount of circulating fat in the blood. These studies have been performed on rats and the findings published recently in journal Proceedings of National Academy of Science.

Researchers are further extending this work for more in-depth studies. “We are testing how rare phospholipids control triglyceride secretion across fed/fasted states. We are also developing an invivo model where we can test the effect of disrupting the mechanism of controlled triglyceride secretion,” Dr Roop Mallik of TIFR told India Science Wire.

Apart from its role in regulating the fat secretion, the team has found that Kinesin is important for replication of hepatitis C virus that infects liver. “It is known that lipid droplets are important for HCV to replicate. We found that the Kinesin motor is required for HCV replication. Perhaps targeted interference against kinesin on lipid droplets can be used to block HCV infection. We plan to take this direction of research further”, explained Dr Mallik.

The team included Priyanka Rai, Mukesh Kumar, Pradeep Barak and Roop Mallik from TIFR, Mumbai; Geetika Sharma and Saumitra Das from IISc Bangalore; and Siddhesh S. Kamat from IISER Pune. The work was funded by Department of Atomic Energy, Wellcome Trust–Department of Biotechnology India Alliance and CSIR.

This article was first published by India Science Wire.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

When did we start parenting our parents?

As our parents grow older, our ‘adulting’ skills are tested like never before.

From answering every homework question to killing every monster under the bed, from soothing every wound with care to crushing anxiety by just the sound of their voice - parents understandably seemed like invincible, know-it-all superheroes all our childhood. It’s no wonder then that reality hits all of a sudden, the first time a parent falls and suffers a slip disc, or wears a thick pair of spectacles to read a restaurant menu - our parents are growing old, and older. It’s a slow process as our parents turn from superheroes to...human.

And just as slow to evolve are the dynamics of our relationship with them. Once upon a time, a peck on the cheek was a frequent ritual. As were handmade birthday cards every year from the artistically inclined, or declaring parents as ‘My Hero’ in school essays. Every parent-child duo could boast of an affectionate ritual - movie nights, cooking Sundays, reading favourite books together etc. The changed dynamic is indeed the most visible in the way we express our affection.

The affection is now expressed in more mature, more subtle ways - ways that mimics that of our own parents’ a lot. When did we start parenting our parents? Was it the first time we offered to foot the electricity bill, or drove them to the doctor, or dragged them along on a much-needed morning walk? Little did we know those innocent acts were but a start of a gradual role reversal.

In adulthood, children’s affection for their parents takes on a sense of responsibility. It includes everything from teaching them how to use smartphones effectively and contributing to family finances to tracking doctor’s appointments and ensuring medicine compliance. Worry and concern, though evidence of love, tend to largely replace old-fashioned patterns of affection between parents and children as the latter grow up.

It’s something that can be easily rectified, though. Start at the simplest - the old-fashioned peck on the cheek. When was the last time you gave your mom or dad a peck on the cheek like a spontaneous five-year-old - for no reason at all? Young parents can take their own children’s behaviour available as inspiration.

As young parents come to understand the responsibilities associated with caring for their parents, they also come to realise that they wouldn’t want their children to go through the same challenges. Creating a safe and secure environment for your family can help you strike a balance between the loving child in you and the caring, responsible adult that you are. A good life insurance plan can help families deal with unforeseen health crises by providing protection against financial loss. Having assurance of a measure of financial security for family can help ease financial tensions considerably, leaving you to focus on being a caring, affectionate child. Moreover,you can eliminate some of the worry for your children when they grow up – as the video below shows.

Play

To learn more about life insurance plans available for your family, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of SBI Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.