Bing Ye, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Research Associate Professor, Life Sciences Institute, University of Michigan Medical School
Fruit flies are a powerful model organism for genetic studies of biological processes. We share a large proportion of our genes with fruit flies. As a result, many genes and biological processes that are important for understanding and treating human diseases were first discovered in flies. This image shows the nervous system of a fruit fly larva. Nerves are labeled in red and special neurons that sense noxious cues are labeled in green. Recently, we discovered a protein in these green neurons that controls the shape of these cells and their connections to neighboring neurons. This protein, which is conserved from fly to human, is called DSCAM (Down’s Syndrome Cell Adhesion Molecule). As suggested by the name, this protein is now known to play a role in the pathology of Down’s syndrome.