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Researchers awarded part of £4.5 million to test Alzheimer drugs on fruit flies

Researchers at the University of Warwick have been awarded part of a £4.5 million fund to test drugs used to treat Alzheimers on fruit flies. 

The project, led by Dr Kevin Moffat and Professor Bruno Frenguelli from the Department of Biological Sciences, is one of 13 new projects that aim to replace, reduce or refine the use of animals in research and testing. 

The studies are being funded by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs). 

Dr Moffat and Professor Frenguelli from the University of Warwick will use the fruit fly, or Drosophilia melanogaster, as a model in their research into Alzheimer's Disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. 

Previous research has shown human genes can be inserted into the fly genome as a way of investigating the biochemical pathways that lead to the accumulation of a protein called Tau, which plays a key role in the development of Alzheimer's Disease. 

Dr Moffat and Professor Frenguelli's work will also allow the testing of drugs in this fly model of Alzheimer's Disease. Using fruit flies removes the need for mice to be used in exploratory research and speculative drug testing.  

Dr Moffat said: "Alzheimer's Disease is a progressive condition, it is often necessary to follow mice and rats for extended periods until some form of disability is evident. This has obvious animal welfare implications and is compounded by the difficulty in generating animal models that mimic all aspects of the human disease.   

“Our earlier work, funded by the Alzheimer's Research Trust, has demonstrated that many of the relevant biochemical pathways are evolutionarily conserved between us and flies. We have already shown that certain human 'Alzheimer's genes' can function in the fly to cause nervous system damage. We now hope to discovery whether we can 'cure' the fly of this damage.  If we can demonstrate this then we will understand more of the disease pathology, identify potential drugs, and contribute significantly to the aims of the NC3Rs."  

Dr Vicky Robinson, chief executive of the NC3Rs said: "We are really pleased to be giving grants to scientists who are trying to develop treatments in major areas of concern such as cancer, motor neurone disease and Alzheimer's disease. If they can do this and reduce their reliance on animal use then this has to be good news." 

Notes to editors

For more information contact Kelly Parkes-Harrison, Communications Officer, University of Warwick, 02476 574255,