Navigation Links
Seeking Alzheimer's Answers Among Fruit Flies
Date:2/25/2011

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Feb. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Medical research often involves a great deal of creativity, finding unique ways to solve challenging problems. But scientists can face skepticism when using creative methods to research human diseases, particularly when those methods involve animals or insects.

Take, for example, the work of one research team, which is studying fruit flies to help determine the genetic causes of Alzheimer's disease.

So how can a person tell if a fruit fly is suffering from memory loss? And how would that help advance the fight against Alzheimer's?

A key expert on fruit flies, which are also called drosophila, said the connection is a fairly simple one: Humans are not that much different genetically from other animals or even insects.

"Anything you can imagine that's alive can be used to study human health and disease," said Laurie Tompkins, chief of the Genetic Mechanisms Branch in the Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology at the U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences in Bethesda, Md.

Tompkins, who has studied fruit flies for more than a decade, noted that animals, insects, plants and even microorganisms have certain genetic and systemic similarities to humans that can be exploited by researchers to better understand human illness. "People have a hard time comprehending that a lot of the processes that go on in these organisms are similar to those in humans," she said.

For example, flies share about two-thirds of the same disease genes found in humans, Tompkins said.

"But to look at a fly, how would you know?" she added. "They look different. They behave differently. How can you tell that what's going on inside is the same?"

As it turns out, one of those genes that exist in both fruit flies and humans has been linked to the hereditary form of Alzheimer's disease, which is particularly aggressive in people, said Thomas A. Jongens, a member of the fruit fly research team and an associate professor of genetics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

"In familial Alzheimer's, the genetics are pretty well characterized," Jongens said. "The idea is then to go and find what kind of treatments can be done to rescue and prevent this loss of memory and learning."

Jongens' research team decided to use fruit flies to test treatments that would counter the genetic mutation that causes Alzheimer's in people.

Studying the disease in flies has several advantages over studying the disease in humans:

  • The flies' life cycle is much shorter, only 60 to 80 days, Jongens said. A researcher can watch the onset of senility in a fly over a matter of weeks, whereas studying humans would take years or decades.
  • The flies are plentiful and provide much more research material. For example, the amount of human brain tissue available for study by Alzheimer's researchers is very limited. "You don't have available brain samples except for people who have already died," Tompkins said.
  • Researchers can do things to fruit flies that would be unacceptable on humans, including genetic manipulation to introduce the disease.

Jongens' team used a couple of unique methods related to fruit flies' courtship rituals to study memory and cognition in their subjects.

The researchers would place a virgin male fruit fly inside a chamber with a female fruit fly that had already been mated. The male fly might try to entice the female into mating, but she would rebuff him and eventually he would stop showing interest. That lesson would overlap into the fly's next encounter: Even if he were next paired with a virgin female ready for mating, his courtship behavior would be noticeably decreased.

However, male fruit flies with this particular genetic propensity for Alzheimer's were unable to retain this lesson. They would keep badgering receptive and unreceptive females alike, incapable of remembering and learning that some females were not available for courtship.

The researchers gave their test flies drugs that theoretically would block the genetic pathways that allow Alzheimer's to take root. Some of the drugs were experimental; one, lithium, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in humans.

The investigators found that these drugs prevented the onset of memory and learning loss in the flies, and also allowed them to recover some of their memory deficits.

"The results suggest there is a window of time when the loss of cognition is reversible through pharmacological treatment," Jongens said. "Maybe there's a window of time in human patients where these pharmacological treatments might have efficacy."

The results cannot automatically be used to recommend treatment in humans. Jongens believes that testing on mice is the next logical step. And after that, human clinical trials could be considered.

But the fact that lithium worked as a means of halting this form of Alzheimer's is a very hopeful finding, he said.

"One might think that would be a drug you would want to start trying immediately in humans, since it is FDA-approved," Jongens said. "It's interesting that it worked in the fly, and it suggests it should be looked at in careful studies."

More information

The Alzheimer's Association has more on Alzheimer's disease research.

SOURCES: Laurie Tompkins, Ph.D., chief, Genetic Mechanisms Branch, Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology, U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Bethesda, Md.; Thomas A. Jongens, Ph.D., associate professor, genetics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia


'/>"/>
Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved

Related medicine news :

1. Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy Gets Aggressive in Seeking Funding Sources for Life Saving Drugs
2. MarijuanaDoctors.com Launches the First Online Search and Booking Engine for Patients Seeking Medical Marijuana Doctors
3. Seeking Contentment During Difficult Times
4. Accelarad Announces Six New SeeMyRadiology.com Customers Seeking Fast, Secure and Innovative Medical Image Exchange Solution
5. National Council Applauds Rep. Tonko for Seeking Strict Enforcement of Mental Health Parity Law – July 1, 2010 Deadline Approaching
6. Publishing and Media Distribution Firm Launches Online Public Relations Kit for Businesses Seeking Free Publicity
7. Stigma deters those with alcohol disorders from seeking treatment
8. SciAnswers.com Grows and Adds a Technical and Healthcare Professionals Job Board.
9. Research Indicates First Time Trade Show Attendees Unable to Select the Best Display Systems to Match their Budgets -- Alta Graphics Provides the Answers
10. National Event Addresses Breakthroughs in Crohn's & Colitis Research: National Expert & Researcher Answers Key Questions on Interactive Webcast/Teleconference
11. Americas Pediatrician Dr. Bill Sears Answers Michelle Obamas Call to Action to Help Eradicate Obesity
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:10/13/2017)... Abilene, Texas (PRWEB) , ... October 13, 2017 , ... ... publication this week that explains one of the most popular and least understood books ... seems like cryptic and puzzling descriptions that have baffled scholars for centuries. Many have ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... healthcare compliance program management, will showcase a range of technology and learning solutions ... Living (NCAL) Convention and Expo to be held October 14–18, 2017 at the ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... , ... The American College of Medical Informatics (ACMI) will present the 2017 ... Session of AMIA’s Annual Symposium in Washington, D.C. AMIA’s Annual Symposium is ... pioneer in the field of medical informatics, this prestigious award is presented to an ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... 2017 , ... Leading pediatric oncology experts at Children’s National Health System ... Congress of the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP) Oct. 12-15. Chaired by ... and Blood Disorders at Children’s National, and Stephen P. Hunger, M.D., Chief of ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... 2017 , ... Vohra Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shark Bird, ... nursing facility medical directors and other clinicians at various events in October. His ... many of these conferences we get to educate other physicians, facility nurses, corporate ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... 2017  Hill-Rom Holdings, Inc. ("Hill-Rom") (NYSE: HRC), today ... Las Piedras, Puerto Rico , where ... Following a comprehensive ... minor structural damage, temporary loss of power and minimal ... completed, manufacturing operations have resumed, and the company expects ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... EXTON, Pa. , Oct. 10, 2017   ... leader in innovative solutions for injectable drug administration, today ... of West,s ID Adapter for improving the intradermal administration ... the Fourth Skin Vaccination Summit in May 2017 by ... Team Lead, Polio Department, World Health Organization (WHO), and ...
(Date:10/5/2017)... 2017  In response to the nationwide opioid ... Surgeons (AAOMS) released prescribing recommendations that urge ibuprofen ... as a first-line therapy to manage a patient,s ... Recognizing the value and importance of ... Prescribing: Acute and Postoperative Pain Management" stresses that ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: