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A valuable fly for research into disease

Cancer, drug addiction, neurodegenerative diseases, epilepsy, immune system defects, visual pathologies, heart disease. A tiny insect, the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) is providing an excellent model system to unravel these diseases and many others. More than 5,000 researchers worldwide are currently working with this organism and producing results that will have beneficial effects for health; Spain is among the leading countries for research that uses this animal model.

Twenty-six international researchers, selected on the basis of their experience in studying human disease using this animal system, will meet for the first time to present and discuss their research. The conference, to be held at the Parc Científic de Barcelona (PCB, Barcelona Science Park) on October 5-7, will focus on the use and exploitation of Drosophila as a tool to study human diseases. The event is organized by the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and ICREA (Institución Catalana de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados), on the initiative of Cayetano González and Marco Milán, ICREA research professors at IRB Barcelona and experts in the field of cell and developmental biology.

The role of the fly

Studies using Drosophila date back to the last century and have provided valuable insight into the fundamental principles of biology and genetics. Only in recent years, however, and thanks in large part to the discovery of the high degree of homology between the genetic make-up of flies and vertebrates, has Drosophila emerged as one of the most effective model systems to analyze the function of genes whose human homologues play a crucial role in many diseases, including neurological, metabolic and developmental disorders, cancer, cardiovascular failure, and pathologies of the visual, auditory and immune systems.

A growing number of laboratories are modelling human diseases in the fly. These models are providing the basic tools for genetic
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Source:Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB)


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