Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fruit Flies Soar as Lab Model, Drug Screen for the Deadliest of Human Brain Cancers

16.02.2009
Fruit flies and humans share most of their genes, including 70 percent of all known human disease genes.

Taking advantage of this remarkable evolutionary conservation, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies transformed the fruit fly into a laboratory model for an innovative study of gliomas, the most common malignant brain tumors.

“Gliomas are a devastating disease but we still know very little about the underlying disease process,” explains John B. Thomas, Ph.D., a professor in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory and senior author of the study, which is published in the current edition of the Public Library of Science Genetics. “We can now use the power of Drosophila genetics to uncover genes that drive these tumors and identify novel therapeutic targets, which will speed up the development of effective drugs.”

Better models for research into human gliomas are urgently needed. Last year alone, about 21,000 people in this country were diagnosed with brain and nervous system cancers, Senator Edward M. Kennedy the most famous among them. About 77 percent of malignant brain tumors are gliomas and their prognosis is usually bleak. While they rarely spread to elsewhere in the body, cancerous glial cells quickly infiltrate the brain and grow rapidly, which renders them largely incurable even with current therapies.

Gliomas originate in brain cells known as “glia” and are categorized into subtypes based on how aggressive they appear, with glioblastoma being the most common and most aggressive form of glioma. Their diversity is mirrored by the number of different signaling pathways involved in the generation of these tumors, yet aggressive gliomas all seem to have one thing in common: Most, if not all human glioblastomas carry mutations that activate the EGFR-Ras and PI-3K signaling pathways. Such mutations are also thought to play a key role in developing drug resistance.

“Fruit flies possess homologs of many relevant human genes including EGFR, Ras, and PI-3K,” explains postdoctoral researcher and first author Renee Read, who spearheaded the project. “We developed the Drosophila model to figure out how these genes specifically regulate brain tumor pathogenesis and to discover new ways to attack these tumors.”

When Read activated both signaling pathways specifically in glia in genetically engineered fruit flies, she found that, just as in the mammalian brain, activation of the EGFR-Ras and PI-3K pathways gave rise to rapidly dividing, invasive cells that created tumor-like growths in the fly brain, mimicking the human disease.

“Once I had verified that the fly tumors share key aspects with human gliomas, I could use the model to screen for new genes that are involved in disease process and compare them to the genes that were found as part of The Cancer Genome Atlas’ glioblastoma initiative,” explains Read.

Glioblastoma is one of the first cancers studied by The Cancer Genome Atlas research network, whose goal is to accelerate understanding of the molecular basis of cancer through the application of modern genome characterization technologies such as large-scale genome sequencing.

Like most cancers, gliomas arise from changes in a person’s DNA that accumulate over a lifetime but sorting changes with wide-ranging impacts from innocent bystanders has been a challenge. “While these initiatives give us big lists of altered genes they don’t tell us much about which ones are really important,” says Read. “Addressing this question in mouse models or patient studies is extremely expensive and time-consuming. In flies, I can test hundreds of genes every week.”

The Salk researchers are now using their fly model to search for genes and drugs that might block EGFR/PI-3K-associated brain tumors. The drug tests are being done in collaboration with co-authors professor Webster Cavenee, Ph.D., and associate professor Frank Furnari, Ph.D., both experts in human brain tumor biology at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at the University of California, San Diego.

The researchers are hoping that through their combined efforts new discoveries from the fly model can be rapidly translated into mouse and human brain tumor studies and lead to development of new therapies for this deadly cancer.

The work was supported by the National Institutes for Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the American Brain Tumor Association.

For information on the commercialization of this technology, please contact Dave Odelson at 858-453-4100, x 1223 (dodelson@salk.edu) in the Salk Office of Technology Management and Development.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to fundamental discoveries in the life sciences, the improvement of human health, and the training of future generations of researchers. Jonas Salk, M.D., whose polio vaccine all but eradicated the crippling disease poliomyelitis in 1955, opened the Institute in 1965 with a gift of land from the City of San Diego and the financial support of the March of Dimes.

Gina Kirchweger | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.salk.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Not of Divided Mind
19.01.2017 | Hertie-Institut für klinische Hirnforschung (HIH)

nachricht CRISPR meets single-cell sequencing in new screening method
19.01.2017 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>