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Exploring the changing genomic landscape during neural fate acquisition in Drosophila

Final Report Summary - NEUROMICS (Exploring the changing genomic landscape during neural fate acquisition in Drosophila)

Western societies are faced with a variety of human conditions of neurological nature spanning from psychological disorders to cancer. Many developmental genes are implicated in these disorders, therefore understanding their complex function during development can potentially reveal their roles in pathological conditions. In biomedical research Drosophila has been used extensively as a genetic model organism to study developmental and disease related phenotypes. Many aspects and key molecules that determine the development of the Drosophila nervous system are conserved in humans and often linked to disease.
With the support of this fellowship we have been able to address how the fate of neural stem cells, which will give rise to the entire nervous system, is specified in the developing Drosophila embryo. By combining the refined Drosophila genetic manipulation with state-of-the-art genomic technologies we have generated data on regulatory networks and epigenetic changes that define the genesis of the nervous system in the developing embryo. Implementing the novel genomic technologies of deep-sequencing in classic genetic models has given us insight into how changes at the DNA level can result in a pathological neural phenotype. Cross-species comparison has revealed that some of the genes, identified during this work to be important for fly neurogenesis, are also differentially regulated in neuroendocrine human disease, suggestive of conserved function. This work has the potential to complement and expand the current views on neural development and identify molecules and pathways relevant for human.
The CIG fellowship has significantly assisted the fellow's re-integration from the UK to Greece at the IMBB-FORTH on Crete. Considering the nation’s current economic turmoil which has imposed many obstacles in research funding and therefore scientific progress, this fellowship has ensured her financial independence and enabled her to pursue her scientific aims towards career establishment. Our efforts have received the full support from the Institute's facilities and have advanced with the help of many Biology students from The University of Crete.