Easily paralyzed flies provide clues to neurodegeneration

of the pharmaceutical industry. For instance, in the United States all drugs now headed to market must be screened to ensure that they do not perturb the function of Herg channels and possibly cause heart problems in patients. The tendency to affect such channels was the reason that Seldane, a popular asthma medication, was pulled from the market.

Adding to the mutant flies' cachet, recent work by Ganetzky and post-doctoral fellow Michael Palladino showed that some of the mutants in their collection undergo progressive, age-dependent neurodegeneration resulting in the widespread death of brain cells.

"The neuropathology observed in these mutants is very reminiscent of that in human disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease," says Ganetzky. "Such disorders are a growing human health concern, but the underlying cellular mechanisms are still poorly understood. These mutants should provide us with valuable new insights into the molecular basis of neurodegeneration in both flies and humans."

Ganetzky believes his collection of fly models, which has been licensed by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, could become a rich resource to help pharmaceutical companies identify new biological targets and develop new high-volume screens for drug development.

"I think the mutants have real value to give us novel information about neural disorders and human disease," Ganetzky asserts. "We can't even begin to guess what new insight might be lurking in these flies."


Contact: Barry Ganetzky
University of Wisconsin-Madison

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