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Andalusian Scientists Study Fly’s Ovary to Go Deeply into Stem Cells

A group of scientists of the Centro Andaluz de Biología del Desarrollo (CABD) are trying to go further in the stem cells field as they study a type of fly called Drosophila melanogaster.

The reproductive system of this insect will be a model to understand stem cells better and make progress in their future use to treat certain human pathologies. The Andalusian Ministry of Innovation, Science and Enterprise has financed this project with 218,000 euros as part of their program of excellence.

Stem cells play an essential role in growth, as they allow the generation of different types of cells like neurones and egg cells, and the maintenance of adult tissues like blood, skin and the intestinal epithelium. In order to do so, it is necessary for stem cells to keep the potential that allows them to split almost unlimitedly and cause daughter cells that differ in different cell types.

In order to know more about stem cells, it is possible to test simple easy-to-study flies in a lab, like Drosophila melanogaster. This fly only has four chromosomes and its genome is already sequenced. Thanks to 80 years of study, we now know that many of the biological processes of Drosophila –despite the genetic simplicity of this fly- are very similar to vertebrates like mice and human beings.

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This group of scientists have chosen to study fly’s ovary because, according to their leading researcher, Acaimo Gonzalez, ‘this organ is made up of just a few types of cells –including several types of stem cells- which allows us to identify stem cells unmistakably. Moreover, Drosophila allows us to make a genetic analysis of the biology of stem cells, which is essential for our research project’.

By analysing fly’s ovary, CABD’s scientists intend to show some light as to why a stem cell can split with the pass of time and remain indifferenced. Through the use of microarrays, scientists pursue to characterise those genes that are expressed in stem cells and study their function. According to Acaimo González, ‘it is essential to find out what genes are responsible for the maintenance of stem cells so that we can understand what stops stem cells from differentiating and keeps its proliferating potential unaffected’.

Ismael Gaona | alfa
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