While sedentary lifestyles and diets high in sugar and fat contribute significantly to the rise in diabetes rates, genetic factors may make some people more vulnerable than others to developing diabetes.
Researchers at the University of Maryland are using the fruit fly, Drosophila Melanogaster, as a model system to unravel what genes and gene pathways are involved in the metabolic changes that lead to insulin resistance and full-blown diabetes in humans. In research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (November 2, 2009), Leslie Pick, an associate professor in the department of entomology, and colleagues describe how they altered genes in fruit flies to model the loss of insulin production, as seen in human Type 1 diabetes.
"These mutant flies show symptoms that look very similar to human diabetes," explains Dr. Pick. "They have the hallmark characteristic which is elevated blood sugar levels. They are also lethargic and appear to be breaking down their fat tissue to get energy, even while they are eating -- a situation in which normal animals would be storing fat, not breaking it down."
Pick and her team, which included University of Maryland researchers Hua Zhang, Jingnan Liu, and Caroline Li, Associate Professor Bahram Momen (biostatistics and environmental science), and former Johns Hopkins University Associate Professor Dr. Ronald Kohanski, used genetic approaches to delete a cluster of five genes encoding insulin-like peptides (Drosophila insulin-like peptides, DILPs) in the Drosophila melanogaster fruit fly. "When we compare the mutants with a normal fly that has been starved, they look the same in that they are both breaking down their fat to get energy," Pick explains. This mimics a clinical feature of diabetic patients resulting from the fact that nutrients are present but the body cannot utilize them and thus mounts a starvation response, breaking down energy stores to obtain nutrients.
"We can use these genetically manipulated flies as a model to understand defects underlying human diabetes and to identify genes and target points for pharmacological intervention," suggests Dr. Pick, who is also using flies to study Type 2 diabetes and other syndromes of insulin resistance.
Model organisms have proven enormously valuable for studies of human disease mechanisms because regulatory pathways and physiology are so highly conserved throughout the animal kingdom. The relationship between fly and human genes is so close that human genes, including disease genes, can often be matched against their fly counterparts.
"Way more is shared between flies and humans than we ever would have expected before we started identifying the genes," says Pick. Using flies as a model system has advantages over studies in other animals, such as mice, because the experiments can be done quickly in thousands of flies and because scientists can combine different mutations much more easily. This could prove valuable in understanding the genesis of Type 2 diabetes in which scientists believe multiple genes play a role.
"When we made the genetic mutation that deleted these genes, we asked would these flies have any symptoms of human diabetes, and it turns out they do," Pick says. "That tells us that there are some things going on that are very similar. Our hope is that this provides a valuable resource for the scientific community to identify gene targets for diabetes treatment."
This research was funded primarily by the National Institutes of Health.
Kelly Blake | EurekAlert!
Researchers develop eco-friendly, 4-in-1 catalyst
25.04.2017 | Brown University
Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017
25.04.2017 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences
25.04.2017 | Life Sciences