Why is Drosophila a good model for human?
1. Of human genes known to be associated with disease, 60% are conserved in Drosophila [Schneider, 2000].
2. Relevant to our work, molecules needed for normal cell proliferation as well as those needed to respond to damaged DNA are conserved between Drosophila and human. These include tumor suppressors (e.g. Hippo, p53), checkpoint kinases (ATM, ATR), and growth factor signaling pathways and their components including activators and inhibitors (RAS, EGFR).
3. Conserved genes, such as p53 and PTEN, as well as IGFR, MAPK, EGFR, and CHK1 appear to retain many of the functions attributable to their human homologs [e.g. Goberdhan et al. 1999].
4. Small molecule inhibitors found in a Drosophila screen can translate to human with high efficiency. In a recently published report from the Institute of Chemistry and Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School, of 25 small molecules that inhibited cytokinesis in Drosophila cultured cells, 65% (16/25) inhibited cytokinesis in HeLa (human cervical cancer) cells while 52% (13/25) inhibited cytokinesis in BSC-1 (monkey kidney) cells [Eggert 2004]. Thus Drosophila can be used to screen for potential human therapeutics.
5. Half of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to:
á Jules Hoffmann for the discovery, first in 1996, of the Toll receptor in immunity in Drosophila
á Bruce A. Beutler for the discovery, 2 years later, of Toll-like receptors in mice
(the other half went to Ralph Steinman for the discovery of dendritic cells in immune response)