February 13, 2009

Fruit Flies turned into Lab Model For Human Brain Cancers

Fruit flies and humans share most of their genes, including 70 percent of all known human disease genes. Taking advantage of this remarkable evolutionary conservation, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies transformed the fruit fly into a laboratory model for an innovative study of gliomas, the most common malignant brain tumors. Being able to use fruit flies as reasonable lab models accelerates research by twenty times because of the fast life cycle of flies versus mice.

Fruit flies are ready to mate within two days and have a life expectancy of a little more than two weeks. Genescient has flies that live 4.5 times longer.

The Salk researchers are hoping that through their combined efforts new discoveries from the fly model can be rapidly translated into mouse and human brain tumor studies and lead to development of new therapies for this deadly cancer.

Genescient Research Model for Longevity

Genescient focuses on gene functional relations to human physiology and age-related diseases. This highlights various networks of pathways and genes described in the literature. We then make maps of networks pointing to the genes appearing in our proprietary list and their relationships. This elucidates possible human therapeutics to treat chronic diseases of aging and improve function.

Once found, we then quickly test these compounds in Drosophila for their effects on median lifespan, background mortality, and the rate of aging at different doses. Later Drosophila tests focus on fertility and mating success to determine the functional vitality of the Drosophila with increased lifespan and to test for any potential side effects of each therapeutic substance.

Because the selected Drosophila genetic pathways are also linked to conserved age-related disease genes in humans, direct therapeutic effects on human health can be expected. In our first attempts at selection using this screening procedure, we have already initially tested 13 compounds on normal flies. We found 12 that extend significantly the normal Drosophila lifespan, reduce background mortality rates, or slow the rate of aging. The thirteenth was a null test: we used a compound that acts in humans but not in Drosophila, and as expected, the flies did not respond. Two of the substances that passed our initial tests have also passed our functional tests for fertility and mating-success; we are now performing additional tests of this type on the other promising substances.

The speed and efficacy of our Drosophila testing allows us to test various combinations of compounds to acquire a highly synergistic set of compounds that act through differing aging pathways. This adds greatly to the therapeutic efficacy of the final treatment. Slowing the aging process requires several compounds, acting on several genetic pathways simultaneously. Our screening procedure allows us to identify quickly the best combinations of compounds that can act simultaneously on multiple genetic networks (cardiovascular, metabolic, neurological, etc).

When we find a multipath set of therapeutic compounds, we then do final nutrigenomic testing in humans. We establish dosage levels by prior literature data and our own testing. Once a group of 3 to 4 nutrigenomic compounds has been identified as synergistic in Drosophila, we can evaluate therapeutic efficacy of the nutrigenomic combination in humans using clinical tests such as: athletic performance, cognitive performance, lung capacity, skin elasticity, blood lipids, serum glucose, as well as inflammatory markers like CRP and IL-6. For any particular age-related disease, our proprietary therapeutic compounds could also be tested in specific disease mouse models or in human clinical trials.

Genescient’s Designer Therapeutics fine tune the body’s gene expression to mimic genetically selected longevity and reduced all cause mortality. This approach is in marked contrast to competing Pharma and biotech companies that focus on a single age-related disease or disorder. Genescient is the first company to develop genetic Designer Therapeutics to delay aging and the age-related diseases.

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