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Some fat is essential for body function

December 11, 2015

Arrese's work could teach us more about disorders like diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Plus, by understanding how insects use fat when they metamorphose and lay eggs and by hypothesizing how to disrupt those processes, her discoveries could lead to new ways for farmers to protect their crops from pests and for health officials to combat mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and West Nile virus.

But before any of that can happen, says Arrese, "We need to study a lot and have information at the molecular level."

Cholesterol and Cell Membranes

One of Arrese's challenges is trying to get oily substances like fat to work in lab tests, which tend to be water-based. However, our cells couldn't function without fat and water's mutual dislike.

Cell membranes encase our cells and the organelles inside them. Fat??”specifically, cholesterol??”makes these membranes possible. The fatty ends of membrane molecules veer away from the water inside and outside cells, while the non-fatty ends gravitate toward it. The molecules spontaneously line up to form a semi-permeable membrane. The result: flexible protective barriers that, like bouncers at a club, only allow the appropriate molecules to cross into and out of cells.

Chew on that the next time you ponder the fate of the fat in a French fry.

SOURCE Oklahoma State University