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Fruit fly protein could be new tool in tackling disease-carrying mosquitoes

Staff Writer |
An insulin-binding protein in fruit flies could provide new opportunities for tackling disease-carrying mosquitoes, such as malaria and yellow fever, scientists at the University of York have found.

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Published in Nature Communications, the research characterised a protein that is involved in regulating insulin in the fruit fly, which was previously thought to behave in the same way that insulin-like hormones work in humans.

Fruit flies are often used as models for researching many human diseases, particularly neurodegenerative diseases, because the system of releasing insulin and other hormones that stimulate metabolism, cell growth, and cell death are common to humans and animals, including insects.

Scientists at the University of York, however, investigated a protein that is different in the fruit fly compared to its equivalent in humans; they found that insulin-binding in the fruit fly is not the same as it is in humans as was previously thought.

There are a number of strands of study for combatting mosquito-borne diseases; one areas looks at drug development to immunise humans against the life-threatening disease and another that is investigating how to genetically modify the insect or disrupt its reproductive abilities to reduce its population size.

Drug develop for some of these diseases, particularly in developing nations, can prove too expensive, however, and so investigating new interventions in the mosquito is a strong area of scientific research. Further study is needed, however, to understand the significance of the mosquito to various ecosystems.

Professor Brzozowski said: “This new finding is exciting because it could open new pathways for drug design for mosquito-borne diseases, as well as take us a step closer to better understanding of some neurological diseases in humans, such as Alzheimer’s, that fruit flies are often studied for.”


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