‘Fly-ing’ from rare to common neurodegenerative disease mechanisms

Advances in genome sequencing have enabled researchers and clinicians to probe vast numbers of human variants to distinguish pathogenic from benign variants. Model organisms have been crucial in variant assessment and in delineating the molecular mechanisms of some of the diseases caused by these variants. The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, has played a valuable role in this endeavor, taking advantage of its genetic technologies and established biological knowledge. We highlight the utility of the fly in studying the function of genes associated with rare neurological diseases that have led to a better understanding of common disease mechanisms. We emphasize that shared themes emerge among disease mechanisms, including the importance of lipids, in two prominent neurodegenerative diseases: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD).