Liebl attends Drexel symposium to share drosophila research

On Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, Biology Professor and Drosophilist Dr. Faith Liebl attended Drexel University’s Epigenetics and Disease Symposium in Philadelphia to present a seminar about her recent drosophila research.

Dr. Liebl working with a student. Photo courtesy of Shan Lu.

Dr. Liebl working with a student. Photo courtesy of Shan Lu.

In Liebl’s drosophila research, she and her student lab workers have explored proteins called kismet in fruit flies that regulate glutamate receptors, or receptors in the brain that allow for learning and remembering.

“One of things that we did in my lab was a screen for genetic mutations that affect glutamate receptors,” says Liebl. “If a mutation changes the number of glutamate receptors in the cell, then we thought, ‘That gene’s protein product must regulate glutamate receptors.’ Kismet came out of a screen like that.”

The proteins in fruit flies are very similar to the proteins in human beings, so knowing about how these proteins work with glutamate receptors in flies can help scientists and doctors understand how they work in the human brain, which can in turn, help them better understand diseases and genetic mutations that affect the brain.

Drexel’s symposium focused on CHARGE Syndrome, which is a genetic condition that consists of a series of birth defects in children, causing facial and sensory abnormalities and at times mental retardation.

What causes CHARGE is a mutation in a human protein called CHD7, and the fruit fly protein kismet is similar enough that Liebl’s drosophila research provides new and helpful information about the syndrome.

While Liebl’s research had no focus on CHARGE Syndrome, she was delighted to have found an unexpected connection to the condition through her research.

“My presentation was quite different from the others because the other presenters were physicians who do research on CHARGE syndrome. It was a very interesting symposium,” says Liebl.

Liebl is currently working on a manuscript about her work with a colleague from Drexel University and plans to apply for federal funding to support her research.

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