Worms, flies and humans... how we are related

Paris - Biologists on Wednesday said the genetic machinery of humans, fruit flies and roundworms was similar in many surprising ways, a discovery that could help basic research into disease.

A consortium of more than 200 scientists compared the genome of modern man with that of two creatures widely studied in the lab - the fruitfly (Drosophila melanogaster) and a tiny creature called roundworm (Caenorhabditis elegans).

Even though the three species are obviously different, evolution used "remarkably similar molecular toolkits" to shape them, the scientists said.

The three share many genes that code for proteins and much of the switchgear for turning these genes on and off, according to their papers published in the journal Nature.

"When we look at flies or worms, it is difficult to believe that humans have anything in common with them," said Mark Gerstein, a professor of biomedical informatics at Yale University.

"But now we believe we can see deep similarities in them that better help us interpret the human genome."

Over half of the genes associated with cancers and other inherited diseases in humans also exist in the genome of the fruitfly, said Sarah Elgin, a professor of biology at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri.

The discovery could be used to fine-tune research into so-called epigenetic therapy, she added.

Epigenes are switches which determine whether a gene is silent or functions. They are influenced by old age and environmental stress, such as exposure to tobacco smoke or alcohol.

Pharmaceutical companies are hugely interested in drugs that can "fix" malfunctioning epigenes - more than 78 epigenetic therapy drugs are being devised for cancer alone. Other big disease targets are diabetes and Alzheimer's.

Elgin said drug designers had to take care these novel therapies did not perturb epigenetic machinery across the human genetic code, inflicting a knock-on effect in a way similar to chemotherapy.

Testing theories on model organisms like the humble fruitfly first could be a big help, she said.

Read more on: us research
Conrad Olivier 2014-08-27 10:45:05 PM
Meh. Saw it on Cosmos.
Teko Mohaeka 2014-08-28 12:10:27 AM
So Tutu can go to hell with his euthanasia,scientists will heal the world.But with the fly I think they took Zuma's genoa.I dont have Zumatic genes,never
Blinde Sambok 2014-08-28 12:12:49 AM
So that movie from the 80's - The Fly - was not so far fetched at all...
Akhenaten 2014-08-28 01:21:12 AM
Yes, we are actually related to trees as well as they need water, food and light to live and grow, and so do we. Brilliant, almost as good as the belief that we come from apes.
Dennis van Aarde 2014-08-28 04:44:38 AM
Come to think, the movies they make are becoming true
James Eayrs 2014-08-28 08:22:29 AM
@ Atheitis. There are ways to say what your opinions are. Although a fellow supporter of your beliefs, I can't agree with the way you try to get your point across by belittling those of different views. Why do you feel you need to use belittling/sledging/name calling or whatever you would like to call it when you have science behind your views? Do you really believe that you are winning anyone over like that. You definitely alienate them further with the way you treat them instead of allowing for respect of freedom of opinion and debating your views based on respect for other people and their views. You might feel that by belittling others with different views, you come across as the winner of the argument...well, you might have won the sledging, but you definitely don't come across as the winner of the argument!