Two new studies have revealed that fruit flies use the same molecular mechanisms as humans to help maintain proper balances of cholesterol and a key form of stored fat that contributes to obesity.
The findings mean that as researchers try to learn more about the genetic and biological processes through which people regulate cholesterol and fat metabolism, the humble fruit fly, also called Drosophila, can teach humans much about themselves.
"Not a lot is known about these regulatory mechanisms in people. But we can learn a lot by studying metabolic control in fruit flies and apply what we learn to humans," said Carl S. Thummel, professor of human genetics at the University of Utah School of Medicine and senior author on the two studies.
High cholesterol and obesity are linked to heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases that take huge tolls on health and add billions of dollars to the nation's medical bills.
Thummel believes that understanding the processes that regulate cholesterol and fat in humans could be critical for addressing those health risks in people.
One study was published in Genes and Development while the other study was published in Cell Metabolism.