We are studying the molecular mechanisms underlying Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
Motor Neuron Diseases (MNDs) including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) were first identified more than 130 years ago but our understanding on what causes these devastating diseases is still rudimentary.
Such poor understanding hinders the development of therapies that at the moment do not seem to be very effective.
MNDs encompass a group of inherited disorders characterized by selective dysfunction and death of motor neurons leading to spasticity, muscle atrophy and paralysis.
Over the last decade, a growing number of neurodegenerative diseases, including polyglutamine diseases, Parkinson’s disease and tau-associated pathologies, have been modelled in the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster.
Why study human neurodegeneration in flies?
Their small size, rapid generation time and low cost for maintenance as compared to mammalian models, have made them an attractive system.
Recently, we have generated a “fly model” for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and we intend to use it to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying ALS.
We are confident that a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms responsible for the pathogenesis will open up the possibility to identify new targets for an effective therapeutic intervention.
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Pennetta, G., Hiesinger, P.R., Fabian-Fine, R., Meinertzhagen, I.A. and Bellen, H. J. (2002). Drosophila VAP-33A directs bouton formation at neuromuscular junctions in a dosage- dependent manner. Neuron, 35: 281-306 (Cover).
Chai, A., Withers, J.P.J., Koh, Y.H., Zhang, B., Budnik, V., Pennetta, G. (2008). hVAPB, the causative gene of a heterogeneous group of motor neuron diseases in humans, is functionally interchangeable with its Drosophila homologue DVAP-33A at the Neuromuscular Junction. Human Molecular Genetics 17: 266-280.
This article was published on Nov 16, 2011