Most chromosomes have been around for millions of years. Now, researchers from the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, in Kansas City, MO, have revealed the dynamics of a new, very young chromosome in fruit flies that is similar to chromosomes that arise in humans and is associated with treatment-resistant cancer and infertility. The findings may one day lead to developing more targeted therapies for treating these conditions.
A new study published in Current Biology reveals how this small chromosome that arose less than 20 years ago has persisted in a single, lab-reared strain of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, and is correlated with supernumerary (extra) chromosomes in humans.
Supernumerary chromosomes in humans are found in cancer cells and frequently interfere with drugs designed to target tumors, making these types of cancers, like osteosarcoma, difficult to treat. In addition, the presence of supernumerary chromosomes in men can disrupt normal chromosome segregation during sperm production, which can cause infertility.
Being able to understand how supernumerary chromosomes arise and what their structures are can potentially illuminate their vulnerabilities and enable the development of potential therapeutic targets. The researchers said.