In the face of an obesity epidemic, research upon natural anti-obesity treatments is thriving. In this context, research in Dr. Park’s lab studies a model organism, Caenorhabditis elegans, with various food derived bioactive compounds for obesity prevention. This summer, I worked in Dr. Park’s lab in the food science department examining baicalein, a type of flavonoid derived from plants, on Caenorhabditis elegans for anti-obesity effects.
Baicalein is one of the active ingredients in some Asian traditional medicine. It has been reported to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammation, and possibly anti-depressant effects. Thus, the goal of my project was to examine the effect of baicalein on fat metabolism and to determine its underlying mechanisms using Caenorhabditis elegans as a simpler model organism. C. elegans shares almost 65% homology with human disease related genes, including those of lipid metabolism, which greatly contributes to further study of human obesity prevention. Treatment of baicalein for 48 hours, at 100 μM, significantly decreased the triglyceride levels compared to the control, wild-type C. elegans. Furthermore, we examined baicalein in three mutants with key genes of lipid metabolism knocked out to determine the pathways of baicalein on fat accumulation.
In conclusion, baicalein showed effects in anti-obesity which offer a basis for future study on the compound. Besides exciting study results, with the CAFE Summer Scholar Program Experience, I learned how to collaborate with lab-mates and developed excellent laboratory skills for my future career. It arouses my further interest to continue with the food science and nutritional science fields not only for my field of study but also my career path.