Heart Disease Genes Mapped in Fruit Flies

LA JOLLA, Calif., April 6 (UPI) — A U.S.-Austrian-led team of scientists says it has created a genetic map of Drosophila, fruit flies, showing how genes affect heart function and disease.

Although heart disease is a major cause of disability and death, scientists say very little is understood about its genetic underpinnings. Researchers from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in California investigated 7,061 genes from Drosophila and built a map showing how some genes contribute to heart function and disease.

The researchers said they identified many genes not previously associated with heart disease.

“Our work on flies has identified a possible cause of human heart disease that the human genetic screens had missed,” said co-lead researcher Professor Josef Penninger of the Austrian academy.

The scientists said they also identified many genes with no known function that might, when malfunctioning, predispose humans to heart disease.

“We already established that genes responsible for making the heart in fruit flies have a similar role in humans; and now we find that many of the genes that help the heart maintain normal function also prevent heart disease in humans,” said Associate Professor Rolf Bodmer, co-lead researcher at Sanford-Burnham.

The study that included scientists from Japan, Canada, Italy, India and Germany appears in the journal Cell.

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