Scientists use fruit fly to screen for brain cancers


Researchers have turned the fruit fly into a lab model for an innovative study of gliomas, the commonest of malignant brain tumours, since the insect shares most of the genes with humans.

“Gliomas are a devastating disease but we still know very little about the underlying disease process,” explained John B. Thomas, professor in the molecular neurobiology lab of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and senior co-author of the study. “We can now use the power of Drosophila genetics to uncover genes that drive these tumours and identify novel therapeutic targets, which will speed up the development of effective drugs.”

Better models for research into human gliomas are urgently needed. Last year alone, about 21,000 people in US were diagnosed with brain and nervous system cancers, Senator Edward M. Kennedy the most famous among them. About 77 percent of malignant brain tumours are gliomas and their prognosis is usually bleak. While they rarely spread to elsewhere in the body, cancerous glial cells quickly infiltrate the brain and grow rapidly, which renders them largely incurable even with current therapies.

Gliomas originate in brain cells known as “glia” and are categorised into subtypes based on how aggressive they appear, with glioblastoma being the most common and most aggressive form of glioma. Like most cancers, gliomas arise from changes in a person’s DNA that accumulate over a lifetime. Most, if not all human glioblastomas carry mutations that activate the EGFR-Ras and PI-3K signalling pathways. Such mutations are also thought to play a key role in developing drug resistance.

Salk researchers are now using their fly model to search for genes and drugs that might block EGFR/PI-3K-associated brain tumours, said a Salk Institute release. The drug tests are being done with co-authors Webster Cavenee, porfessor and associate professor Frank Furnari, both experts in brain tumour biology at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at the University of California, San Diego. These findings were published in the current edition of the Public Library of Science Genetics.

Chewing gum helpful in treating kidney, cardio disease: Chewing gum with a phosphate-binding ingredient can help treat high phosphate levels in dialysis patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), according to a study.

The results suggest that this simple step could maintain proper phosphate levels and also help prevent cardiovascular disease in these patients.

Hyperphosphatemia (high levels of phosphate in the blood) commonly occurs in CKD patients on dialysis. Even when patients take medications to reduce phosphate acquired through their diet, about half of them cannot reduce phosphate to recommended levels.

Because hyperphosphatemia patients also have high levels of phosphate in their saliva, researchers tested whether there might be a benefit to binding salivary phosphate during periods of fasting, in addition to using phosphate binders with meals.

Vincenzo Savica and Lorenzo A. Cal?? the Universities of Messina and Padova, Italy, respectively, and colleagues recruited 13 dialysis patients with high blood phosphate levels to chew 20 mg of phosphate-binding chewing gum twice daily for two weeks between meals, in addition to their prescribed phosphate-binding regimen.

Savica and Cal team found that salivary phosphate and blood phosphate levels decreased during the first week of chewing, and by a fortnight, salivary phosphate decreased 55 percent and blood phosphate decreased 31 percent from levels measured at the start of the study.

Salivary phosphate returned to its original level by day 15 after discontinuing the chewing gum, whereas blood phosphate took 30 days to return to its original value, said a Messina-Padova joint release.

Source: The News

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