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Gene. 2004 Nov 10;342(1):1-11.

Drosophila, an emerging model for cardiac disease.

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  • 1Section of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of California at San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


A variety of studies that are currently underway may validate the fruit fly as an in vivo model for analyzing genes involved in cardiac function. Many mutations in conserved genetic pathways have been found, including those controlling development and physiology. Because homologous genes control early developmental events as well as functional components of the Drosophila and vertebrate hearts, the fly is the simplest existing model system that can be used to assay genes involved in human congenital heart disease (CHD). The wide variety of genetic tools available to Drosophila researchers offers many technical advantages for rapidly screening through large numbers of candidate genes. Thus, an important future and long-term direction is likely to be the use of Drosophila as a vehicle for analyzing polygenic traits as an aid in human genetics. One can anticipate a time in the not too distant future when mutant lines exist for every gene in vertebrate systems, such as mice and zebrafish. However, one of the enduring problems that will not easily be addressed by such resources will be the tracking of complex traits defined by polygenic variants. For this level of genetic analysis, simple genetic model systems including yeast, Caenorhabditis elegans, and Drosophila melanogaster will undoubtedly play a crucial ongoing role. Of them, Drosophila will be critical for examining gene networks involved in organogenesis and is clearly the system of choice for studying cardiac development, function and aging, since among the simple genetic models it is the only one with a fluid pumping heart.

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