Drosophila as a model organism to study the intricate paths of tumorigenesis

The Project

During this project, we aim to mimic the long process that starts with basic research all the way to clinical application of the knowledge gained. We can divide the project in three main steps. First, we will learn about many different genetic tools researchers can use to study the putative genes involved in tumor formation. Second, we will hypothesize, based on the published literature, on the genes and processes implicated in tumorigenesis. Finally, we will propose a working model and search for a way to revert the phenotypes of these disease.

Our starting point will be to learn about the history of the fruit fly in research and understand the particularities of its biology. Nonetheless this will be a full hands-on experience so we will also explain how to handle the flies, and which are the most important and interesting genetic tools that can be used to manipulate the genome of this model organism.

Students will also be taught how to search for information about cancer, the genes that are involved in this disease and the main pathways responsible for the tumorigenesis process. From this, they will discover which databases they should use to find the best scientific publications and also repositories that store information about Drosophila melanogaster.

We will also take advantage of established Drosophila melanogaster transgenic flies that express disease-related genes. Using a well-established genetic tool, we will be able to express these genes in specific populations in order to study their effects. To examine the phenotypes shown by the diseased flies and to compare them with that of healthy flies, we will use various techniques such as immunostaining. In order to visualize our immunostainings, we will also go over the basics of confocal microscopy and we will use cutting-edge confocal microscopes. As a last step, students will analyze all the data obtained and perform statistical analysis in order to draw conclusions and acquire new critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They will formulate hypothesizes and think about strategies to decrease or abolish disease related phenotypes, as they do so, they will learn how to perform rescue experiments in order to test their proposed questions. The conclusions obtained from these kind of basic research studies is the first stone of the common ground for later application to humans, to the ultimate benefit of society.

Learning objectives
  • Stimulate critical thinking and problem solving abilities
  • Learn how to plan experiments and generate hypothesis
  • Learn how to work with a model organism
  • Understand the processes that lead to tumorigenesis
  • Extrapolate the obtain results in a model organism to what happens in a human context
  • Learn how to work in a group
Required materials

Labcoat and laptop

Coordinator of the project

Mariana Muzzopappa

  • Degree in Biology from University of Buenos Aires (UBA) - Argentina
  • PhD in Chemical Sciences at Institute of Biochemical Research, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Study of SCF- E3 protein complexes involved in regulated protein degradation during oogenesis in Drosophila melanogaster.
  • Postdoctoral Researcher at Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) - Barcelona, in Lopez-Schier's laboratory. Use of the zebrafish as a genetic model to understand inner-ear related diseases.
  • Senior Postdoctoral Researcher at IRB Barcelona, in Marco Milan's group. Use of Drosophila melanogaster to analyze different aspects of Chromosomal Instability- induced tumorigenesis.
  • Participation in many science activities, international courses and conferences. Research presentation in international congresses and publish my work in peer-reviewed international journals.
  • Tutor for the final research work of many high school students and participation in the last edition of BIYSC.

Lara Barrio

  • Degree in Biology by the University of Barcelona (UB).
  • PhD in Genetics by the IRB Barcelona.
  • Short Postdoc stage at the University of California San Francisco and currently postdoctoral researcher at the IRB Barcelona).
  • Research involved in working with Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly) as a model system to understand growth regulation and tissue homeostasis during normal development and in a cancer context. 
  • Participation in various science and outreach activities with young students at IRB Barcelona and in secondary schools and involved in workshops for the general public.

Daniela Romão

  • Degree in Biology by University of Coimbra - Portugal
  • MSc in Applied Microbiology by University of Lisbon where she finished with three first author publications.
  • 3rd year PhD student by the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) - Barcelona, Spain.
  • Active member of the Noies al Lab association, an association that promotes science with a gender balance perspective and female referents for young girls interested in pursuing STEM careers.
  • Collaboration with the IRB Communication Department, being involved in different outreach activities for both students and curious adults that which to learn more about the research conducted at the institute.
The center

The Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) is a public institution engaged in basic and applied research at the unique interface between molecular and cell biology, computational and structural biology and chemistry, with experts in proteomics, genomics, biostatistics and