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Fruit fly's beating heart helps identify human heart disease genes

e potential to greatly speed the process of finding and verifying candidate human genes for heart disease," Wolf continued. "In our experiments, we were able to demonstrate for the first time that a mutated gene that causes a specific heart disease in a human causes the same disease in the fruit fly."

Senior author on the paper was cardiologist Howard Rockman, M.D. Other co-authors were fruit fly geneticist Hubert Amrein, Ph.D. in Duke Medical Center, and bioengineers Joseph Izatt, Ph.D. and Michael Choma, Ph.D. of Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

In recognition of his research, the American Heart Association bestowed upon Wolf its prestigious Louis N. and Arnold M. Katz Basic Research Prize in November during its annual scientific sessions. This is the second year in a row that a trainee in Rockman's lab has won the Katz prize. Last year, Naga Prasad, Ph.D. received the award.

In the past, researchers could not accurately study heart disease in fruit flies because of an inability to accurately image heart function of a living adult fly. Past investigators have measured the size of the heart and then made assumptions about what was happening inside, or dissected flies after death.

For their experiments, the Duke team adapted a technology known as optical coherence tomography (OCT), which is commonly used to measure the thickness of the retina in the eye, to obtain detailed images of the beating heart of an adult, unanesthetized fly.

"After inserting into the fly the gene that we know is implicated in dilated cardiomyopathy in humans, we imaged the adult fly with this novel system and what we saw looked exactly like the same condition in humans," Wolf said. "We obtained clear images that looked similar to an echocardiography study of a human patient with heart failure."

According to Rockman, about 80 percent of the gene mutations known to cause disease
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Source:Duke University Medical Center


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