The tiny fruit fly has joined the fight against MND. Fruit flies are estimated to share approximately 60% of the genes that make us human and have long been used as a tool to study the inheritance of genes. More recently fruit flies have been used as models of disease including Alzheimer’s disease and now MND.
Researchers from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, in Trieste, Italy have studied the effects of eliminating the fruit fly version of the TDP-43 gene. Mutations in the human TDP-43 gene are associated with some forms of familial MND. The flies missing the TDP-43 gene had a shorter life span and motor deficits. Since the flies without TDP-43 had MND-like symptoms the authors concluded that a loss of the function of TDP¬43 is likely to be the cause of MND in families inheriting TDP-43 mutations. It is up to researchers now to try to precisely identify the function of TDP-43 that is required for healthy motor neurones.
Source: International MND research update – June 2009, Dr Justin Yerbury for MNDRIA