Scientists have studied worms to help unravel the mystery that causes us to act irrationally when we are

Is this why we act irrationally when we are “hungry”? Hungry worms make risky decisions to get a meal

Is this why we act irrationally when we are “hungry”? Study shows hungry worms sacrifice comfort and make risky decisions to get a meal

  • Scientists have studied worms to understand why we are irrational when we are hungry
  • Proteins in gut cells move dynamically to transmit hunger signals
  • This prompts worms to cross toxic barriers in order to obtain a meal
  • While the study focused on worms, researchers believe a similar mechanism may also occur in humans

We’ve all been there – you’re so hungry that you start overreacting to minor annoyances and snapping at people.

Now, scientists have studied worms to help unravel the mystery that causes us to act irrationally when we are “hungry.”

Their findings revealed that proteins in intestinal cells move dynamically to transmit signals about starvation, prompting the worms to cross toxic barriers to obtain a meal.

While the study focused on worms, researchers from the Salk Institute believe a similar mechanism may also occur in humans.

Scientists have studied worms to help unravel the mystery that causes us to act irrationally when we are “hungry.” Their findings revealed that proteins in intestinal cells move dynamically to transmit signals about starvation, prompting the worms to cross toxic barriers to obtain a meal.

Even fruit flies get hungry!

A recent study suggests that fruit flies become “hungry” and become more combative the longer they remain without food, like humans.

Bottles of male fruit flies, containing different amounts of food, were scanned at different intervals by experts from the University of East Anglia and the University of Oxford.

They found that male fruit flies, which feed on decaying fruit, grow more resistant the longer they go without food, but settle down after 24 hours.

The team says this aggression could be a strategy to maximize short-term reproductive production in environments where survival is uncertain.

“Animals, whether a humble worm or a complex human, all make choices to feed themselves in order to survive,” said Srikanth Chalasani, senior author of the study.

Subcellular motility of molecules could be the driver behind these decisions and may be fundamental to all animal species.

The team used a tiny worm called Caenorhabditis elegans — one of the simplest forms of life we ​​know, thanks to its limited neurons and cells.

In the study, researchers created a barrier of copper sulfate – a known anthelmintic – between two worms and their food.

When the worms were deprived of food for two to three hours, the researchers found that they were more willing to cross the toxic barrier to reach the food, compared to well-fed worms.

Using genetic tools, the researchers set out to investigate the molecular mechanism behind this behaviour.

In well-fed worms, transcription factors – proteins that turn genes on and off – can be found in the cytoplasm of intestinal cells, where they travel to the nucleus only when activated.

However, in hungry worms, they found that these transcription factors, called MML-1 and HLH-30, shifted to the cytoplasm.

The researchers also found that when MML-1 and HLH-30 are on the move, a protein called insulin-like peptide INS-31 is secreted from the gut.

This protein binds to nerve cells in the brain, relaying hunger information and driving risky food-seeking behaviour.

In a follow-up experiment, the researchers deleted the transcription factors, and found that the hungry worms stopped trying to cross the toxic barrier.

This indicates that MML-1 and HLH-30 have a central role in how hunger changes behaviour.

We've all been there - you're so hungry that you start to overreact to minor annoyances and pick up people

We’ve all been there – you’re so hungry that you start to overreact to minor annoyances and pick up people

c. elegans is more complex than we give them credit for,” said Molly Mattei, co-first author of the study.

Their intestines sense the lack of food and report it to the brain.

“We think it is these movements of the transcription factor that direct the animal to make a risk-reward decision, such as crossing an unpleasant barrier to access food.”

The team now plans to investigate these transcription factors further, in hopes of understanding how other animals — including humans — prioritize basic needs over comfort.

Why is C.elegans such a good model organism?

C. elegans is one of the simplest forms of life that we know of, thanks to its limited neurons and cells, and thus the researchers were able to accurately map its body.

Despite being made of only 1,000 cells, the creature shows relatively advanced behavior such as finding a mate and avoiding predators.

The worm, while simple, contains 80 percent of the same genes as humans and can be studied as a more basic version of complex life.

Through its brain, stomach, and body functions, the worm has provided scientists with a way to study life on a much smaller and more manageable scale.

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2022-05-05 18:00:49

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