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Rescuing fruit flies from Alzheimer's disease
Date:7/15/2010

PHILADELPHIA Investigators have found that fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) males -- in which the activity of an Alzheimer's disease protein is reduced by 50 percent -- show impairments in learning and memory as they age. What's more, the researchers were able to prevent the age-related deficits by treating the flies with drugs such as lithium, or by genetic manipulations that reduced nerve-cell signaling.

The research team -- Thomas A. Jongens, Ph.D., associate professor of Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Sean M. J. McBride M.D, Ph.D. and Thomas McDonald M.D., at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine; and Catherine Choi M.D., Ph.D. at Drexel University College of Medicine worked with the familial form of Alzheimer's disease (FAD), an aggressive form of the disease that is caused by mutations in one of the two copies of the presenilin (PS) or amyloid precursor protein (APP) genes. Studies in animal models have previously shown that the FAD-linked PS mutations lead to less presenilin (psn) protein activity.

Their findings are published in this week's issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

"The results from our study suggest a new route to explore for the treatment of familial Alzheimer's disease and possibly the more common sporadic forms of Alzheimer's disease," notes Jongens. "They also reveal that proper presenilin activity levels are required to maintain normal cognitive capabilities during aging."

Learning and Memory Tests in Flies

Fruit flies can hardly take a pen-and-pencil test to assess age-related memory decline. Instead, the team relied on the ability to train fruit fly males to learn and remember courtship behavior.

During courtship the male fly performs an instinctive set of behaviors to both determine if the female is receptive and to entice her to mate. The courtship activity that a male displays toward a female is affected by several factors,
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Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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