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Lipid Plays Big Role in Embryonic Development



In 2003, Dr. Bieberich and his colleagues reported ceramide teams up with the protein PAR-4 to eliminate useless cells in developing brains.

Now his team reports that ceramide plays a key role in establishing cell polarity by attracting proteins involved in polarity to the top of the cells then triggering a series of interactions between them.

When researchers inhibited ceramide production, polarity proteins didn’t gather at the top of cells, cells died and primitive ectoderm formation was impaired; all processes worked like a charm when ceramide was restored.

They plan to study what unknown roles ceramide may play in mature cells and if it plays a role in some cells losing their direction and becoming cancerous.

“There are conditions where a lot of cells die by what we call apoptosis and, in these cases, it could be that ceramide is elevated and that causes good cells to die,” says Dr. Bieberich. Ultraviolet radiation, says Mr. Krishnamurthy, is a good example of what may increase ceramide levels.

To study the quantity and location of ceramide, the researchers first developed an antibody that binds to it so it could be seen and counted. Previously, chemical studies have documented its presence but nothing more.

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