Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Using fruit flies to help understand cancer

Date:
October 22, 2010
Source:
Association for International Cancer Research
Summary:
Changes to proteins in a cell underlie many cancers. Now, a team of scientists in Portugal, Belgium and Norway plans to use the fruit fly to understand exactly how changes to proteins, identified in the test-tube, impact on how cells divide in a living organism.

Small and with a life cycle of just two weeks, fruit flies are seen by many as pests and a problem all year round.

However, for nearly a century, the humble insect, officially known as Drosophila melanogaster, which measures no more than 3mm, has performed a vital role in genetics and developmental biology.

Fruit flies are genetically diverse and easy to use in research, helping scientists in a variety of studies, from how the brain functions to how cancer develops.

Dr Mark Matfield of the Association for International Cancer Research (AICR) explained: "Cancer is a disease of the most fundamental processes of living organisms, which is why it is found in all animals. The basic causes and mechanisms remain the same, from fruit flies to humans. Over the last twenty years, research into these tiny, simple, insects has resulted in major advances in cancer research. That is why, at AICR, we are keen to support high-quality research in this area."

Changes to proteins in a cell underlie many cancers and using funding from AICR, a team of scientists in Portugal, Belgium and Norway plan to use the fruit fly to understand exactly how changes to proteins, identified in the test-tube, impact on how cells divide in a living organism.

Dr Rui Martinho at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciκncia (IGC), in Portugal, in collaboration with researchers in Ghent (Belgium) and Bergen (Norway) hopes the study will increase understanding of how cancer begins.

One way that cells control the activity of their genes or proteins is to add on specific chemical groups or 'tags' to modify them (80-90% of normal human proteins are modified in this manner).

However, it is known that some of the enzymes responsible for these modifications are present at increased levels in certain aggressive cancers, or they are responsible for incorrect tagging which can drive the cell to grow and divide in an uncontrolled manner, forming a tumour.

In the fruit fly, Dr Martinho and his collaborators propose to unravel the behaviour of one of these enzymes in order to understand its role in the growth and division of cells.

The modifications carried out by this enzyme affect a wide range of cellular functions during cell division and apoptosis (programmed cell death) essential for the normal balance of the organism, but they may also be involved in the development of cancer.

He explained: "We will focus on the enzyme San, to try to identify what it acts upon in the cell, how it is regulated, the consequences of its actions and, ultimately, its effect on how cells divide.

"Our approach will allow a better understanding of the impact of these modifications in healthy cells and cancer development in a living context closer to our own, rather than in human cells grown in test tubes or in unicellular organisms, such as yeast, as previous studies have done."

Dr Martinho's proposal, worth 147.000 Euro, was one of 23 successful projects, totalling more than £4million, approved by AICR in March this year and which recently got under way.

The charity has previously funded another project at IGC led by Dr Miguel Godinho-Ferreira, principal investigator of the Telomers and Genome Stability group. Dr Godinho-Ferreira's findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature and AICR has high hopes for this current grant.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for International Cancer Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for International Cancer Research. "Using fruit flies to help understand cancer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101022082454.htm>.
Association for International Cancer Research. (2010, October 22). Using fruit flies to help understand cancer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101022082454.htm
Association for International Cancer Research. "Using fruit flies to help understand cancer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101022082454.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) — Liberia's finance minister is urging the international community to quickly follow through on pledges of cash to battle Ebola. Bodies are piling up in the capital Monrovia as the nation awaits more help. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) — A Florida doctor who helped fight the expanding Ebola outbreak in West Africa says the disease can be stopped, but only if nations quickly step up their response and make border control a priority. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) — More than 100 tons of medical supplies were sent to West Africa on Saturday, but aid workers say the global response is still sluggish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) — Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins