A green glow from a fruit fly is giving researchers the green light when they are on the right path in their quest to develop compounds that help prevent cancer.
The glow, the result of some tinkering in Drosophila, the workhorse of the genetics world, lets researchers know when powerful cancer-prevention signals similar to those spurred by protective chemicals in broccoli, cabbage, and other foods, have been turned on in the organism.
The chemical signaling system is one of the major ways that the body defends itself against toxic assaults and threats like cigarette smoke, diesel exhaust, and dangerous microbes. A gene known as KEAP1 senses danger and then unleashes NRF2, which triggers rampant anti-oxidant activity in a cell.
Now scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center have discovered that the pathway, long recognized in people and other animals, is active in fruit flies, too, opening the door to faster, less expensive ways to find compounds that spur our natural anti-oxidant activity. The work, funded by the National Cancer Institute, is reported in the Jan. 15 issue of Developmental Cell.
This is one of the main mechanisms the body uses to fight off the things that give you cancer, said Dirk Bohmann, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biomedical Genetics and a geneticist who studies fruit flies in an effort ultimately aimed at improving human health.
This puts cells into an anti-oxidant defense mode. Drug development and testing is very, very expensive and time-consuming. This work should speed the development of new drugs aimed at preventing cancer, added Bohmann.
Bohmann did the work along with former postdoctoral Gerasimos P. Sykiotis, M.D., Ph.D., who teamed up with Bohmann to develop novel approaches for the study of the NRF2 pathway after earning his medical and doctoral degrees from the University of Patras in Greece. Sykiotis is now with the Model Organisms Unit of the Nov
|Contact: Tom Rickey|
University of Rochester Medical Center