Researchers Recreate Congenital Heart Disease in Fruit Flies

By Emily Chu

Researchers from the Center for Cancer & Immunology Research at the Children’s National Health System have been using fruit flies to understand which genes are involved in the development of congenital heart disease. Through the use of high-throughput in vivo techniques, the scientists are able to manipulate dozens of genes at once in order to recreate the effects of congenital heart disease in fruit flies.

According to principal investigator, Zhe Han, Ph.D., by mirroring in fruit flies the mutations evident in people with the disease, researchers were “able to characterize the effect of these specific genetic alterations on heart development, structure and activity” as well as on the structure of histones necessary for normal heart development. The team studied 134 candidate genes and of those genes, 70 produced heart defects in the flies and resulted in acute changes to normal histone structure. This not only confirms the implication of certain candidate genes in the onset of congenital heart disease, but also has the potential to allow researchers to recreate a patient’s specific form of congenital heart disease in fruit flies. This is significant to the development of personalized treatments of the disease, and as Han asserts, “treating CHD at the level of DNA offers the potential of interrupting the current cycle of passing along genetic mutations to each successive generation."


Children's National Health System. (2017, February 9). High-throughput, in vivo validation of candidate congenital heart disease genes: Work in Drosophila model points to personalized therapies for the most common birth defect among newborns. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 18, 2017 from