Fly Model of Parkinson's Disease

With genome projects finishing at an ever quickening pace, many new animal models of human disease are being developed. A very promising one is a Drosophila version of Parkinson's disease (M.B. Feany and W.B. Bender, "A Drosophila model of Parkinson's disease," Nature, 404:394-8, March 23, 2000). At Harvard Medical School, Mel Feany, an instructor in pathology, and Welcome Bender, a professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology, created flies transgenic for the human gene encoding alpha synuclein. The flies show the dense brain inclusions called Lewy bodies characteristic of the human diseased brain, the telltale depletion of dopaminergic neurons, and motor symptoms--they cannot climb the walls of their vials, as flies tend to do. As in humans, the impairment begins gradually in midlife and worsens with age. Lifespan appears normal, if the animals are properly cared for. "These flies sit down on...

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