Fruit fly can be an alternative animal model for research related to bowel diseases, say Mangalore University researchers

In recent times, incidence of inflammatory bowel disease has increased rapidly in many Asian countries with a consistent rising trend

September 17, 2022 08:48 pm | Updated 08:48 pm IST - MANGALURU

The team of researchers at Mangalore University modelled human intestinal colitis in Drosophila melanogaster using a different genetic and pharmacological approach.

The team of researchers at Mangalore University modelled human intestinal colitis in Drosophila melanogaster using a different genetic and pharmacological approach. | Photo Credit: Courtesy: Deepak Naik, Department of Applied Zoology, Mangalore University.

A study by a team of researchers at Mangalore University has revealed that Drosophila melanogaster (or fruit fly) can be used as an alternative animal model, instead of a mouse, for research on inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) which are chronic, lifelong, and characterised by gastrointestinal inflammation.

The international scientific journal on biological sciences, ‘3 Biotech’, published by Springer Nature, published their research work titled ‘Dextran sodium sulfate alters antioxidant status in the gut affecting the survival of Drosophila melanogaster’ on September 16, 2022.

The research team comprised Shamprasad Varija Raghu, Department of Biotechnology-Ramalingaswami Fellow in the Department of Applied Zoology at the university; Avinash Kudva, Scientific Officer, Department of Biochemistry at the university; and postgraduate students Nishal Keshav, Ramyalakshmi Ammankallu, and Shashidhar from the Department of Applied Zoology.

The co-authors of the research work are Jagdish Gopal Paithankar (Nitte Deemed to be University), Manjeshwar Shrinath Baliga (Mangalore Institute of Oncology, Mangaluru), and professor Rajashekar K. Patil (Mangalore University).

Increasing trend

The research work says around 6.8 million cases of IBD were reported in 2017. Over the past few decades, IBD was most dominant in the western world. However, in recent times, IBD incidence has increased rapidly in many Asian countries with a consistent rising trend. The increasing trends in IBD incidence and lack of adequate long-term therapeutic options have substantial financial burdens on the healthcare system worldwide.

It said that the progress in research to understand the pathogenesis of IBD had been delayed by the absence of adequate animal models. Drosophila melanogaster or fruit fly, a genetic animal model, shares around 75% sequence similarity with genes causing different diseases in human beings. In addition, the different genetic tool kits to regulate gene expression levels available in Drosophila research fields make them versatile genetic model organisms for various biological studies. Many features of digestion and absorption appear to be conserved between flies and mammals.

The team of researchers at the university modelled human intestinal colitis in Drosophila melanogaster using a different genetic and pharmacological approach. Such a valuable Drosophila colitis model can be further used for understanding the molecular pathology of IBD and screening different novel drugs.

Time consuming

Mr. Raghu told The Hindu that screening of drugs in mouse model consumes a lot of time and there are certain ethical restrictions on the use of mouse models. The screening of new drugs in genetic models such as Drosophila will ease scientific discoveries and consumes lesser time. Hence this new fly model of human colitis disorder will have a significant impact on future studies on different digestive tract disorders.

“...In conclusion, the present study demonstrates that dextran sulfate sodium treatment in Drosophila melanogaster causes gut inflammation similar to that of human patients suffering from IBD… However, Drosophila lacks adaptive immunity; but their genetic makeup, distinct architecture, and similar physiology resembling the digestive tract of vertebrates make them useful. More importantly, Drosophila shares conserved signalling mechanisms for human intestinal pathophysiology, making them a convenient model for studying IBD,” the research work said.

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