Nearly every cell in your body has [a structure called the primary cilium]…It not only looks like an antenna, it also acts like one — it picks up chemical signals floating outside of the cell and conveys the information down to the rest of the cell. The antenna’s receivers are various receptor proteins, which cluster at the tip. To get up to the tip, these receptors ride a molecular escalator.
This brings us to the mystery Jackson’s lab solved: How do the right proteins end up inside the cilium to build the escalator and ride it up to the tip?
…[Researchers] found that two proteins work together to open the way to the cilium: one as a gate and the other as the guard that unlatches it…If either’s broken, the gate won’t open at all.
So what does this have to do with obesity?
About 15 years ago, researchers began realizing that various defects in primary cilia resulted in disease, and that several of these diseases had morbid obesity as a symptom…[So professor Peter Jackson, PhD, and his Stanford lab] is identifying malfunctioning genes that relate to weight gain and is diagramming their proteins’ interactions.
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