Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Skinny on Genes and Fruit Flies

I read today about a study at UT Southwestern Medical Center. The researchers there claim to have found the "skinny" gene. I was thinking - they could look through my entire DNA closet and not find one pair of skinny genes. But apparently, they have discovered what makes the body decide to accumulate fat or burn it off. What's more they claim to have isolated this gene they call adipose and can switch it on and off.

In fruit flies. They can switch it on and off in fruit flies. Okay, I have had my bouts with fruit fly infestations (there were some questionably brown bananas that sat a bit too long). Fruit flies live on and on regardless of how many you kill and months later you still find them in the strangest places, like the bathroom. After having personally disposed of several colonies consisting of thousands of fruit flies, I can say without fear of being contradicted, that I have never, ever seen a fat fruit fly and I don't know of anyone who has. A fruit fly is a tiny little pest who can slip through the teensiest gap between the fingers of hands that are clapped together to kill it.

But anyway, back to the study. According to the report, the idea is that only some of the individuals of a species have the adipose gene and others don't. This way, it ensures the survival of at least some of the species in case of hard times or natural disaster. Fat specimens survive famine, skinny ones get modeling contracts.

There was nothing in the article that promised they could or would locate this gene for overweight people and switch it off. I don't know if this is even the point - some of these researchers are just curious little people who need to know everything but aren't necessarily interested in doing anything about it.

However, someday, when the Designer Gene Shop opens up next to the storefront Botox place, I will definitely know what kind of gift certificate the kids should get me for my birthday.

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