New disease insights are bubbling up

Strange bubbles in the intestine of a tiny worm may lead to greater understanding of diseases in humans, such as skin disorders, cataracts and ALS. Researchers discovered the bubbles in the worm species C. elegans.

Caenorhabditis elegans met belvorming in de darm
Bubbles in C. elegans intestine may lead to new insights into human diseases.

The bubbles arise when protein structures called intermediate filaments, that are supposed to give cells strength, clump together. Intermediate filaments constitute one of the three main structures that shape the internal ‘skeleton’ of cells.

Investigating the bubbling process, the researchers discovered a new protein that regulates the shape of the intestine. A similar protein exists in humans, the research team discovered. The question is now whether this protein, dubbed bublin by the researchers, also plays a similar role our bodies.

Follow-up research should reveal this, says Prof. Mike Boxem, who led the study. If bublin turns out to have a comparable function, then it could be a starting point for more insights into various diseases in which cellular rigidity is affected.

The research team featured researchers from Utrecht University, University Medical Center Utrecht, Durham University, and RWTH Aachen University. The researchers announced their results in the journal Current Biology.