March 7, 2013
Researchers Discover Mechanism That Regulates Steroid Hormone Production In Drosophila
Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)
Looking at the transformation of a fly larva into a pupa may help researchers to understand the molecular mechanisms that trigger puberty. A study conducted on the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, by scientists at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) led by ICREA research professor Marco MilÃ¡n, identifies an miRNA as key to the relationship between hormones that control growth and sexual maturity. According to MilÃ¡n, "accelerated growth or obesity can provoke premature puberty in humans, harming their development — and this is a growing problem in Western societies. Today, physicians know very little about the molecular mechanisms behind premature puberty, and Drosophila is providing us with our first hints." Current Biology, the reference journal for basic biology and part of the Cell family of journals, has published the study today online.
These findings may be relevant to human health if elements homologous to those found in flies can be identified in people. "Premature sexual maturity slows down growth, preventing adults from developing properly," says Boulan. Despite the differences between the fruit fly and humans, this study represents an important step forward. The high degree of genetic similarity and the conservation of many molecular mechanisms between the two species allow researchers to model many complex phenomena in flies, or worms, and then look to see if they correspond to what they see in other more complex models, including humans.
"By beginning to identify these elements in Drosophila, researchers will be able to make much faster progress in their efforts to discover new drugs to prevent and treat premature puberty," concludes MilÃ¡n.