COLLEGE PARK, Md., Nov. 3 (UPI) — University of Maryland medical researchers say they have created fruit fly models of diabetes to study the genetics involved in the disease.
While sedentary lifestyles and diets high in sugar and fat contribute significantly to the rise in diabetes rates, genetic factors may make some people more vulnerable than others to developing diabetes, researchers said.
Associate Professor Leslie Pick and his team said they altered genes in fruit flies to model the loss of insulin production as seen in human Type 1 diabetes.
“These mutant flies show symptoms that look very similar to human diabetes,” Pick said. “They have the hallmark characteristic, which is elevated blood sugar levels. They are also lethargic and appear to be breaking down their fat tissue to get energy, even while they are eating — a situation in which normal animals would be storing fat, not breaking it down.
“We can use these genetically manipulated flies as a model to understand defects underlying human diabetes and to identify genes and target points for pharmacological intervention,” said Pick, who is also using flies to study Type 2 diabetes and other syndromes of insulin resistance.
The study that included researchers Hua Zhang, Jingnan Liu and Caroline Li, Associate Professor Bahram Momen and former Johns Hopkins University Associate Professor Ronald Kohanski appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Copyright 2009 by United Press International