Genetically Identical Cells Can Respond Differently

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Genetically Identical Cells Can Respond Differently

Scientists may be a step closer to knowing why cells within the same body often seem to be at odds with each other.

For example, take any two genetically identical cells in a person’s body: odds are, one cell will store away the fat it receives from the bloodstream like a squirrel storing nuts for the winter. Meanwhile, the other cell burns the fat off, or passes it on to the waste management division.

That’s right: the two cells do the exact opposite of one another, even though they’re identical twins. A group of U.S. researchers thinks they know why.

Scientists at Purdue University’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering say that a recent study shows that a cell that processes insulin quickly tends to store up fat faster than other cells.

The researchers focused on a type of genetically identical cells called 3T3-L1 cells. They found that the variability in the cells’ fat storage behavior depended on their individual exposure to insulin, a hormone that triggers cells to take in glucose from the bloodstream and convert it to stored fat.  Cells that were subject to increased and prolonged insulin stimulation stacked away the fat like nobody’s business; cells that missed out on the insulin drenching didn’t.

What makes this important is that these researchers think it might be possible to develop a drug that will short-circuit the reaction that makes insulin-exposed cells hoard fat – and thus help people with obesity.

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