New research published in PLOS Genetics shows that starving C. elegans (Caenorhabditis elegans) during the late larval stage of development when the worms are undergoing tissue growth and formation halts cellular activity at previously unknown checkpoints in their development. These findings show that nutrition is an important cue to signal whether or not the worms should continue on to the next stage of development. Interestingly, the two-week starvation period actually doubled the lifespan of the worms as they went on to a seemingly normal development and adult life once they were provided with food again. Humans have similar pathways that respond to nutrition, thus the researchers speculate that human development may have similar checkpoints.
Study co-author Adam Schindler was quoted in BBC Nature as saying, “The main question is how the decision is made to either arrest development or continue. Understanding the key players in this decision could provide insights into why tissues degenerate during ageing and reveal possible ways of slowing this degeneration.”
Schindler AJ, Baugh LR, Sherwood DR. Identification of Late Larval Stage Developmental Checkpoints in Caenorhabditis elegans Regulated by Insulin/IGF and Steroid Hormone Signaling Pathways. In Press. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004426.