Fruit fly model boosts eye study

BAR HARBOR — Faculty member Vicki P. Losick will deliver the inaugural William Procter lecture on the fruit fly as a model for the study of retinal diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, at the MDI Biological Laboratory on Wednesday, July 17, at 5 p.m.

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a leading cause of blindness, but modeling it for purposes of developing therapeutic interventions is difficult because the underlying cellular dysfunction takes a full year to develop in mouse models. In humans, it takes decades.

In 2018, Losick was named the inaugural recipient of a William Procter Scientific Innovation Fund award for research to develop the fruit fly, which shares many of its genes with humans, as a model for retinal disease.

The results will be presented in a lecture entitled “Accelerating Discoveries to Address Macular Degeneration and Other Age-related Retinal Disease Using the Fruit Fly.”

Losick’s demonstration that the cellular dysfunction associated with human retinal disease is mimicked in the fruit fly paved the way for her and collaborator Patsy Nishina of the Jackson Laboratory to use it as an inexpensive and efficient platform for the development of therapies to prevent or reverse retinal disease.

“Now that we’ve created a fruit fly model, we can use it to screen for genetic and pharmacological suppressors that return the organism to a non-disease state,” Losick said.

The Procter Fund was established at the MDI Biological Laboratory in 2018 by a member of William Procter’s family in honor of his achievements in science and business. Procter was the grandson of William Procter, the founder of Procter & Gamble (P&G) and an active member of the P&G board until his death in 1951.

Losick, who joined the MDI Biological Laboratory in 2016, has established herself as a leader in research on the role of polyploidy in wound healing and aging. In October 2018, she led a first-of-its-kind conference at the MDI Biological Laboratory on “Polyploidy in Organ Development, Repair and Disease.”

Contact 288-3147.

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