Gene therapy for fruit flies with Parkinson’s Disease

The title of this post does not suggest a very noble undertaking. If a fruit fly has Parkinson’s- like shakes, so be it.  Who should care about the health of these pesky creatures and why?  A study reported in the May edition of Cell Metabolism suggests the answer.  The researchers introduced a gene called AOX into fruit flies (drosophila melanogaster), a gene that is found in a number of primitive species but not fruit flies, humans or other vertebrates for that matter.  We have lost the gene over the course of our evolutionary history.  The AOX gene reduced the number of free radicals and free radical damage in the mitochondria of the fruit flies, alleviated their Parkinson-like symptoms, and protected the flys from cyanide and other toxins.  There seemed to be no negative side effects to introducing the gene.   The gene affects mitochondrial electron chain transfer.  It “in essence acts as a bypass for blockages in the so-called oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) cytochrome chain in mitochondria, ” a chain central to energy metabolism (ref)  That chain involves hundreds of proteins and complex interactions, but it appears that this single gene can significantly affect the whole chain.  The researchers had previously inserted the AOX gene into individual human cells and established that it found its way into the mitochondria where it was stress-protective.  The current study establishes the protectiveness of AOX for a whole organism – the fruit fly.  AOX is known to be related to longevity in some lower species.  If the approach worked for humans – restoring a historical gene to the genome that was deleted in the course of evolutionary history – benefits in both treating mitochondrial-related diseases and life extension might be realized.  Of course, experimentation must be done with caution.  The gene would have to be taken from the DNA of some lower species before it is inserted into human DNA.  Remember the horror-thriller B movie The Fly?

About Vince Giuliano

Being a follower, connoisseur, and interpreter of longevity research is my latest career. I have been at this part-time for well over a decade, and in 2007 this became my mainline activity. In earlier reincarnations of my career. I was founding dean of a graduate school and a university professor at the State University of New York, a senior consultant working in a variety of fields at Arthur D. Little, Inc., Chief Scientist and C00 of Mirror Systems, a software company, and an international Internet consultant. I got off the ground with one of the earliest PhD's from Harvard in a field later to become known as computer science. Because there was no academic field of computer science at the time, to get through I had to qualify myself in hard sciences, so my studies focused heavily on quantum physics. In various ways I contributed to the Computer Revolution starting in the 1950s and the Internet Revolution starting in the late 1980s. I am now engaged in doing the same for The Longevity Revolution. I have published something like 200 books and papers as well as over 430 substantive.entries in this blog, and have enjoyed various periods of notoriety. If you do a Google search on Vincent E. Giuliano, most if not all of the entries on the first few pages that come up will be ones relating to me. I have a general writings site at and an extensive site of my art at Please note that I have recently changed my mailbox to
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