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Using a fruit fly model to study heart disease

28 September 2022


Just like us, fruit flies are stripy beneath the skin. These sarcomeres – repeating bands of stretchy muscle tissue – contain fibres of myosin (highlighted in green) and actin (purple) griping and pulling at each other – as the sarcomeres shorten, the muscle contracts. This is heart muscle from fruit flies (Drosophila), used to investigate common faults in human heart disease. Compared to healthy muscle at the top, the sarcomeres at the bottom are much looser and swollen – in these hearts, researchers used RNA interference to hamper the activity of a protein called filamin, often shown to be altered in heart diseases like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Yet altering its activity in a different way – using CRISPR gene editing to change its structure – did not affect the flies as expected. Further studies might aim to solve this mystery, while altering genes and proteins reveals more about what we do, or perhaps don’t, have in common with Drosophila.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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