Investigating the potential of neurodegenerative disease models in larval Drosophila melanogaster (PhD)

Humanised fruit fly models are transgenic Drosophila melanogaster strains expressing human genes. Specifically, we study the characteristics of fly models expressing human genes involved in neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases (AD and PD). Interestingly, these Drosophila neurodegenerative disease models show a high degree of conservation in the fundamental biological pathways and in the molecular, genetic and pathophysiological aspects of neurodegenerative human diseases. These characteristics explain why Drosophila models have paved the way for the development of initial fast screening for potential drug candidates in vivo, and represent also a promising tool for biomedical research in neuroscience.
This Ph.D project is being developed in the context of the FliACT consortium, which includes Brainwave Discovery Ltd, the DTC in Neuroinformatics and Computational Neuroscience, at the School of Informatics in the University of Edinburgh, and in collaboration with The Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona. We are developing new methods to research and understand locomotion behaviours in the simple larval brain.
Using these new tools we have uncovered new larval Drosophila models for olfactory defects in AD and PD. During the initial screening performed, one of our larval AD models has shown a subtle but repeatable phenotype during navigation in an odour gradient and, in some cases, defects in learning.

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