This one is for all nerds who love the small worm and can’t stop working with them! – Nikita Jhaveri (August 6, 2020)
I am a happy free-living worm
Producing both egg and sperm
Whom scientists use to confirm
Undiscovered theories and reaffirm
My transparent body helps you find
Novel pathways, that blow your mind
Making different theories align
With facts that are hard to malign
Keeping me in your lab is very safe
I won’t bite or cause any chafe
My bed and breakfast are easy to make
One pertidish, some bacteria and I am happy as a flake
Please, use me to explore your macrocosm
After all, I am fun and awesome
I promise to make your inquisitive world blossom!
A lot of people these days suffer from allergic and autoimmune diseases, but this appears to be far more prevalent in wealthy countries. The cause, according to the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ is that people’s immune systems are not primed well enough from a young age. They are too clean! Time to get back in touch with some ‘old friends’, i.e., parasites, say Zhang and Gems, in their review titled: ‘Gross ways to live long: Parasitic worms as an anti-inflammaging therapy?’, published in eLife last February.
The authors have reviewed the literature on the potential benefits of exposing people to parasitic helminths. The central idea that they put forth goes as follows: Humans and parasites evolved in a traditional Red Queen interaction, where parasites harm humans, and humans evolved to fight back by way of the immune system. The parasitic worm then in turn evolved to dampen the immune reaction of its host, allowing it to stay without being bothered. This does not exactly benefit the host, but the twist is: dampening the immune system could also inhibit chronic and aging-associated inflammation, a.k.a inflammaging. Hence, the authors propose that a treatment with either live worms, or potentially a cocktail of worm proteins, could be administered as a treatment for allergic and autoimmune inflammatory disorders, as well as inflammaging in order to extend healthspan.
Cheers to that!
Zhang B, Gems D. 2021. Gross ways to live long: Parasitic worms as an anti-inflammaging therapy? Elife. 10:1–12. doi:10.7554/eLife.65180.
Aging is an inevitable process in most multicellular organism that is regulated by both genetic and environmental factors. Multiple pathways have been discovered using the nematode species Caenorhabditis elegans which were then shown to be conserved in other higher eukaryotes. Simultaneously gene expression profiling using C. elegans during aging, revealed the identification of age-dependent gene expression alterations that characterize the nematode’s ageing process. Following this, multiple studies led to the construction of genetic and molecular networks that includes well-known aging regulators.
In this paper by Aktypi et al (2021), the authors used a novel approach that revealed candidates which were never been linked to ageing before, thus suggesting promising potential targets/ageing regulators. More specifically, they have combined microarray gene expression profiling of the wild type animals during ageing with network analysis of the differentially expressed genes to detect regulatory genes that have importance in C. elegans ageing, an approach that has not been applied before for the detection of ageing regulators.
Aktypi, F. et al. (2021) Network analysis in aged C. elegans reveals candidate regulatory genes of ageing. Biogerontology. (https://doi.org/10.1007/s10522-021-09920-3)
A recent paper by Nelson and Ambros  reports that let-7 heterochronic microRNA is absent in Caenorhabditis species of the japonica group. Research in C. elegans has shown that let-7 plays an essential role during larval to adult transition and mutations in let-7 cause lethality. Authors used one species of the japonica group, C. sulstoni, to further investigate microRNA gene regulatory network. The results revealed that the loss of let-7 function in this species is compensated by other let-7 family members, i.e., miR-48, miR- 84, and miR-241.
Considering that let-7 is highly conserved across bilaterians , the results presented in this paper are exciting. However, more work is needed to understand the basis of such an evolutionary change and other potential changes in microRNA-mediated processes.
1. Nelson C. and Ambros V. (2021). A cohort of Caenorhabditis species lacking the highly conserved let-7 microRNA. G3, 11(3), jkab022. DOI: 10.1093/g3journal/jkab022.
2. Pasquinelli A.E. et al. (2000). Conservation of the sequence and temporal expression of let-7 heterochronic regulatory RNA. Nature. 408:86–89.
Boroweic et al. (2020) describes the phenomena in which decaying bodies of older C. elegans turn into nutritious fluid for their offsprings using the insulin/IGF-1 insulin pathway.
To read more, please click here
The article by Kanzaki, N. et al. (2018) describes the first sibling species of C. elegans – C. inopinata including its morphological, ecological, behavioural and genetic analysis.
To find out more, please read the article below:
Kanzaki, N., Tsai, I.J., Tanaka, R. et al. Biology and genome of a newly discovered sibling species of Caenorhabditis elegans. Nat Commun 9, 3216 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-05712-5