Who Knew? Fruit Flies Get Kidney Stones Too, May Hold Key to Treatment for Humans

They recently presented their findings at the Genetics Society of America annual meeting.

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“The kidney tubule of a fruit fly is easy to study because it is transparent and accessible,” says physiologist Michael F. Romero, Ph.D. of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He said researchers are now able to see new stones at the moment of formation.

“More important is that fruit flies are not bothered by the presence of kidney stones, so they are ideal subjects to study in order to better understand the condition in humans,” Dr. Romero says.

For example, Dr. Romero’s team has identified a gene that encodes a protein which transports oxalate into the fly kidney. When this gene is genetically modified, flies get fewer stones.

Dr. Romero and his colleagues are now using this gene as a target as they test gut, renal and crystal dissolving therapies in fruit flies for possible drug development.

“Our hope is that, by using a relatively inexpensive and flexible disease model like Drosophila, we can help with at least some of these important diseases,” said Julian Dow, Ph.D., of the University of Glasgow, who teamed with Dr. Romero and others on the study.

Other Mayo Clinic researchers included: Erik Ritman, M.D. Ph.D., Jim Thompson, Ph.D., Taku Hirata, Ph.D., and undergraduate researcher Daniel P. Bondeson.


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