Model Organisms and Human Health

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Science  22 Dec 2010:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1201826


In this issue of Science, we highlight the impressive efforts to describe and analyze the genomes of the two organisms—the fly Drosophila melanogaster and the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans—that serve as the best models for understanding the biology of all animals, including humans. Hundreds of scientists have collaborated in these two major studies, which have moved us far beyond the complete descriptions of the DNA molecules that make up the fly and worm genomes published a little more than a decade ago, an accomplishment that seemed amazing then. As summarized in the Perspective on p. 1758, the new findings reveal essentially all of the tens of thousands of RNA and protein molecules that each of these organisms produces, as well as how their genetic information is packaged. Extensive Web-based databases built on these data are freely available to everyone, greatly accelerating future discoveries. Strange as it may seem, this research, aimed at reaching a deep molecular understanding of how the bodies of a fly and a worm are formed and maintained, will be critical for improving human health.