Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fruit fly’s beating heart helps identify human heart disease genes

24.01.2006


In a discovery that could greatly accelerate the search for genetic causes of heart disease, a multi-disciplinary Duke University research team has found that the common fruit fly can serve as a powerful new model for testing human genes implicated in heart disease.



The finding is important, the Duke team said, because the entire genome of the fruit fly is well understood and catalogued, enabling researchers to systemically screen genes to identify potential gene mutations or variants implicated in human heart disease. The achievement also raises the possible of rapid screening in fruit flies of drugs to treat heart disease, said the researchers.

The team’s bioengineers adapted an existing imaging technology to visualize in detail for the first time the beating of the heart of a fruit fly, an insect the size of a grain of rice. The fly’s heart is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.


After perfecting the new visualization technique, the researchers inserted into the fly genome a mutated gene that causes dilated cardiomyopathy in humans. This condition is often the cause of heart failure in humans and is characterized by heart muscle that has greatly enlarged and therefore is unable to pump blood efficiently. The moving images revealed that fly heart looked and acted just like a human heart with the same condition.

"The difficulty in performing studies to find specific genes that cause disease in humans is that you need large families with members afflicted with the disease," said Matthew J. Wolf, M.D., Ph.D., Duke Medical Center cardiology fellow and first author of paper appearing Jan. 23, 2006, in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "This can be a quite a complex and laborious undertaking. Even in mouse models of human disease, the process of screening for genes can take a long time.

"However, fruit flies, with their well-documented genome and rapid life-cycle, have the potential to greatly speed the process of finding and verifying candidate human genes for heart disease," Wolf continued. "In our experiments, we were able to demonstrate for the first time that a mutated gene that causes a specific heart disease in a human causes the same disease in the fruit fly."

Senior author on the paper was cardiologist Howard Rockman, M.D. Other co-authors were fruit fly geneticist Hubert Amrein, Ph.D. in Duke Medical Center, and bioengineers Joseph Izatt, Ph.D. and Michael Choma, Ph.D. of Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

In recognition of his research, the American Heart Association bestowed upon Wolf its prestigious Louis N. and Arnold M. Katz Basic Research Prize in November during its annual scientific sessions. This is the second year in a row that a trainee in Rockman’s lab has won the Katz prize. Last year, Naga Prasad, Ph.D. received the award.

In the past, researchers could not accurately study heart disease in fruit flies because of an inability to accurately image heart function of a living adult fly. Past investigators have measured the size of the heart and then made assumptions about what was happening inside, or dissected flies after death.

For their experiments, the Duke team adapted a technology known as optical coherence tomography (OCT), which is commonly used to measure the thickness of the retina in the eye, to obtain detailed images of the beating heart of an adult, unanesthetized fly.

"After inserting into the fly the gene that we know is implicated in dilated cardiomyopathy in humans, we imaged the adult fly with this novel system and what we saw looked exactly like the same condition in humans," Wolf said. "We obtained clear images that looked similar to an echocardiography study of a human patient with heart failure."

According to Rockman, about 80 percent of the gene mutations known to cause disease in humans have an equivalent in the fruit fly.

"If there is a mutation in a gene that causes a disease in the fruit fly, then there is a very good chance that there is a corresponding gene in humans," Rockman said. "It is an enormous breakthrough to demonstrate that a human gene can induce disease in a fly. With this novel fruit fly model, we can now screen genes we believe are involved in human heart disease and test them in the fly model."

If a candidate human gene leads to the same physiological effects in the fly as it does in humans, researchers can then not only test different compounds or drugs, but do so much quicker than in other mammal models of disease.

"These findings have the potential to change the way we do genetic screening to identify candidate disease-causing genes," Rockman continued. "Never before have we been able to actually visualize in the fruit fly the actual physiologic changes caused by dilated cardiomyopathy."

The Duke team is currently screening the entire genome of the fruit fly for additional candidate genes involved with dilated cardiomyopathy, a process which should take another six to nine months.

"We are now screening the entire fruit fly genome gene by gene, and determining whether the removal of the gene or a mutated version results in heart failure in the fly," Wolf explained. "With this new model, we can rapidly correlate abnormal heart functioning with a specific gene mutation."

Richard Merritt | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mc.duke.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Navigational view of the brain thanks to powerful X-rays
18.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology

nachricht Separating methane and CO2 will become more efficient
18.10.2017 | KU Leuven

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Osaka university researchers make the slipperiest surfaces adhesive

18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Los Alamos researchers and supercomputers help interpret the latest LIGO findings

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>