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UM scientists create fruit fly model to help unravel genetics of human diabetes
Date:11/2/2009

their fat to get energy," Pick explains. This mimics a clinical feature of diabetic patients resulting from the fact that nutrients are present but the body cannot utilize them and thus mounts a starvation response, breaking down energy stores to obtain nutrients.

"We can use these genetically manipulated flies as a model to understand defects underlying human diabetes and to identify genes and target points for pharmacological intervention," suggests Dr. Pick, who is also using flies to study Type 2 diabetes and other syndromes of insulin resistance.

Model organisms have proven enormously valuable for studies of human disease mechanisms because regulatory pathways and physiology are so highly conserved throughout the animal kingdom. The relationship between fly and human genes is so close that human genes, including disease genes, can often be matched against their fly counterparts.

"Way more is shared between flies and humans than we ever would have expected before we started identifying the genes," says Pick. Using flies as a model system has advantages over studies in other animals, such as mice, because the experiments can be done quickly in thousands of flies and because scientists can combine different mutations much more easily. This could prove valuable in understanding the genesis of Type 2 diabetes in which scientists believe multiple genes play a role.

"When we made the genetic mutation that deleted these genes, we asked would these flies have any symptoms of human diabetes, and it turns out they do," Pick says. "That tells us that there are some things going on that are very similar. Our hope is that this provides a valuable resource for the scientific community to identify gene targets for diabetes treatment."


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Contact: Kelly Blake
kellyb@umd.edu
301-405-8203
University of Maryland
Source:Eurekalert  

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