UC Davis Seminar: Fly Research Could Provide Some Answers on Schizophrenia Disorder

Oct 15, 2021

UC Davis Seminar: Fly Research Could Provide Some Answers on Schizophrenia Disorder

Oct 15, 2021

Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that affects less than one percent of the U.S. population. When schizophrenia is active, symptoms can include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, trouble with thinking and lack of motivation. However, with treatment, most symptoms of schizophrenia will greatly improve and the likelihood of a recurrence can be diminished. While there is no cure for schizophrenia, research is leading to innovative and safer treatments. Experts also are unraveling the causes of the disease by studying genetics, conducting behavioral research, and using advanced imaging to look at the brain's structure and function. These approaches hold the promise of new, and more effective therapies.--American Psychiatric Association.

So could research on a fly--a model organism--help us understand and maybe lead to treatment of schizophrenia and other complex disorders?

Postdoctoral fellow Sergio Hidalgo Sotelo of the UC Davis Department will present an in-person seminar on “Using Drosophila melanogaster to Understand Complex Disorders: Insights on the Pathophysiology of Schizophrenia” on Wednesday, Oct. 20 in 122 Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive.  

Sotelo, a researcher in the laboratory of molecular geneticist and physiologist Joanna Chiu, professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will speak at 4:10 p.m. Plans are to record the seminar for later viewing.

In his abstract, Sotelo relates: “As genome association technologies improve, we have more information regarding the genetic components underlying neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and schizophrenia. Drosophila melanogaster offers a genetically tractable in vivo system that can be used to perform genetic screens and characterization of genes associated with complex disorders. By combining physiological and behavioral analyses, my work aims to understand the molecular mechanism and neuronal networks involved in some of these conditions.” 

Untangling the Mechanisms. “Schizophrenia is a condition that is characterized by its debilitating and poorly understood symptoms," he pointed out. "By studying the genetic component of this disorder, we aim to untangle the mechanisms behind those symptoms. This could potentially help us to develop new and more effective treatments. Using a similar approach would give us insights better understanding of others disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.” 

Said Professor Chiu: “Sergio's exciting thesis research highlights the value of Drosophila as an animal model to study biological processors. To many, it is probably surprising to hear that this tiny insect is constantly used as an animal model to study complex human diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. In fact, there are quite a number of similarities between fly and human physiological systems, even in the brain.” 

According to Wikipedia: "Starting with Charles W. Woodworth's proposal of the use of this species as a model organism, D. melanogaster continues to be widely used for biological research in genetics, physiology, microbial pathogenesis, and life history evolution. As of 2017, five Nobel Prizes have been awarded to drosophilists for their work using the animal."

Sotelo joined the Chiu lab as a postdoctoral fellow in the summer of 2020. “Despite the difficult situation brought on by COVID, Sergio is making significant progress in his research on biological rhythms," Chiu said. "He has brought his expertise in neurogenetics, infused the lab with creative energy, and contributed to the training and growth of younger investigators in the lab. Recently, he was named a Pew Latin American Fellow in the Biomedical Sciences, a prestigious award for a well-deserved scientist.” 

A native of Puente Alto, Santiago, Chile, Sotelo is one of 10 post-docs from across Latin America—including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay—to receive two years of funding to conduct research. The fellows work under the mentorship of prominent biomedical scientists, including alumni of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.  

The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminars are held on Wednesdays at 4:10 p.m. and include both in-person and virtual lectures. All in-person seminars are held in 122 Briggs Hall, while the virtual seminars are broadcast on Zoom. For more information, contact seminar coordinator Shahid Siddique, at ssiddique@ucdavis.edu