• Question: You said you use fruit flies to research the build-up of toxic proteins in the brain in a rare form of dementia. 1 - Is it familial Alzheimer's Disorder? If yes, are the toxic proteins tau and amyloid plaques? 2 - Do you modify the genes of the fruit flies so they develop dementia? 3 - How can you measure the amount of toxic protein? 4 - Do the fruit flies exhibit any symptoms of dementia, other than the build-up of proteins?

    Asked by nwhite12 to Jo on 22 Jun 2018.
    • Photo: Joanne Sharpe

      Joanne Sharpe answered on 22 Jun 2018:

      Thank you for your interest in my research! It is frontotemporal dementia which is the second most common form of early onset dementia. The proteins and the dipeptide repeat proteins that are produced from the C9orf72 GGGGCC repeat expansion. This mutation is the most common genetic cause of FTD. So my flies have a transgene which causes the toxic proteins to be produced when the gene is turned on. Flies provide a powerful set of genetic tools to allow us to express the proteins in different tissues depending on how we cross them, and also means that we can keep a healthy stock of the mutant flies as they don’t produce the protein unless crossed to another fly line. The proteins are tagged with GFP so we can look at them under the microscope in different tissues and see what aggregates might form. Also I do Western Blots which will help quantify this. I have only just started my project but I will be looking for motor defects and then seeing if their synapses are reduced in the brain. I hope this makes sense and answers your question 🙂