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What bioinformatics cannot predict…

For a long time, the dogma was: one gene, one protein. However, over the years, it became apparent that a gene can in fact give rise to more than one protein. This is precisely one of the phenomenona that the realm of bioinformatics is unable to predict. Nature will always prove to be more complex than we imagine.

The case of ghrelin and obestatin

It was the case for the gene which gives rise to two small proteins: ghrelin and obestatin. Bioinformatics programs had been unable to predict their separate existence! Indeed, bioinformatics tools detected only one protein whereas, in the laboratory, scientists discovered that the otherwise inactive protein was actually split into two smaller proteins which in turn became active.

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A question of appetite

Ghrelin and obestatin are involved in controlling our appetite. Ghrelin gives out hunger signals while obestatin tells us when we have had enough to eat. These are sensations that we take for granted simply because they seem so natural to us. However, it is important for our body to be able to differentiate between ‘hungry’ and ‘no longer hungry’.

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When our appetite goes haywire

If for some reason the ghrelin/obestatin balance is lost, our body tends towards obesity or, on the contrary, anorexia. However, feelings of hunger and satiation are not only under the influence of proteins. They are also guided by our emotions and dietary habits. It is a very sophisticated system which depends on many factors – from physiological to psychological and cultural.