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Fruit flies all aglow light the way to cancer prevention
Date:1/14/2008

artis Institutes for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass., where he is applying the genetic tools generated in the study to characterize the role of NRF2 signaling in Drosophila models of human diseases.

Scientists have known that the pathway exists in people, rodents, and zebrafish, and so Bohmann and Sykiotis went hunting for it in the fruit fly genome. They found that one form of a gene called CNC, which is widely known to be involved in determining the development of a fruit flys head, serves like NRF2, turning on cellular defenses on a broad scale.

The defenses include activation of molecules known as thioredoxins and glutathione S-transferases, which are anti-oxidants that help a cell get rid of toxins and damaged molecules in its environment. Unlike popular anti-oxidants in certain foods and vitamins, whose effects in the body are transient, Bohmann points out that a fundamental genetic change like a boost in NRF2 activity throughout an organism would supply an ongoing amplified anti-oxidant response.

While the main application of the work is in boosting the bodys ability to resist cancer, the research could also make a difference for patients who have cancer that is resistant to current drugs. In 2006, a team from Johns Hopkins showed how this same signaling pathway allows some cancer cells to fight off drugs intended to kill them. Gaining a foothold on the system in fruit flies gives researchers an added tool as they search for ways to thwart these rogue cancer cells.

In their experiments, Bohmann and Sykiotis modified fruit flies so they would glow green when exposed to ultraviolet light when the signaling pathway is functioning. Sure enough, flies with more active CNC glow more brightly than regular flies, giving the team an easy, visual way to see whether the pathway is activated.

The team demonstrated the technology using a compound called oltipraz, which targets the pathway and has been tested in people
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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom_rickey@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-7954
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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