Fragile X Syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by a mutation on the X-chromosome that is the most common inherited form of intellectual disability. Clues to this syndrome, which manifests in a wide spectrum of behavioral and learning problems, may be buzzing overhead. The common fruit fly has genes similar to those responsible for causing FXS in humans, making this household pest the perfect partner for scientists searching for a cure for a disease that is also linked to autism.
The tiny fruit fly could hold the answers to many of the mysteries surrounding ALS. Scientists are currently studying genes that are believed to play a role in the disease in hopes that they can develop targeted gene therapies. One study in fruit flies revealed a method of reducing the toxicity associated with a key ALS protein, a strategy to slow the loss of neuron function.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is largely responsible for irreversible hearing damage. NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to a loud sound or continued exposure to high-decibel noises. Researchers at the University of Iowa are now turning to the common fruit fly to study and combat NIHL in humans. The fruit fly is the ideal animal model because the molecular structure of its ear is more similar to humans than that of rats or guinea pigs, meaning tests on fruit flies yield more accurate results.
Neuroblastoma is a rare form of cancer that doesn’t occur in the wild- only in humans. Scientists have recently found that neuroblastoma is caused by a mutation in the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene. Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit flies, also have the ALK gene and may be able to serve as animal models for this rare disease.