Drosophila as a screening tool to study human neurodegenerative diseases



In an aging society, research involving neurodegenerative disorders is of paramount importance. Over the past few years, research on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases has made tremendous progress. Experimental studies, however, rely mostly on transgenic animal models, preferentially using mice. Although experiments on mice have enormous advantages, they also have some inherent limitations, some of which can be overcome by the use of Drosophila melanogaster as an experimental animal. Among the major advantages of using the fly is its small genome, which can also be modified very easily. The fact that its genome lends itself to diverse alterations (e. g. mutagenesis, transposons) has made the fly a useful organism to perform large-scale and genome-wide screening approaches. This has opened up an entirely new field of experimental research aiming to elucidate genetic interactions and screen for modifiers of disease processes in vivo. Here, we provide a brief overview of how flies can be used to analyze molecular mechanisms underlying human neurodegenerative diseases.