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NC3Rs: National Centre for the Replacement Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research
Skills and Knowledge Transfer grant

Acquisition of the Drosophila model system to understand mechanisms of innate immunity regulation by chromatin dynamics

A  sideways shot of a drosophila

At a glance

In progress
Award date
July 2021 - June 2023
Grant amount
Principal investigator
Dr Patrick Varga-Weisz


University of Essex


  • Replacement
Read the abstract
View the grant profile on GtR



Why did we fund this project?

This award aims to establish the infrastructure and techniques to use Drosophila at the University of Essex to investigate components of innate immunity.

The innate immune response is the first line of defence against pathogens. It is highly evolutionarily conserved. The system must be tightly controlled as failing to activate can result in infection, whereas overactivity can result in inflammation. Dr Patrick Varga-Weisz has previously shown that a chromatin remodeling protein, Smarcad1, is a critical component in innate immunity in mice. To further explore the protein function in mice would require breeding of transgenic lines for infection studies associated with pain and suffering using large numbers of animals. Patrick’s collaborator, Dr Dominique Ferrandon at the Institute de Biologie Moléculare et Cellulaire, has identified a homolog for Smarcad1 in Drosophila. Based on current thinking, Drosophila are incapable of experiencing suffering and so can provide a partial replacement for other animals.

To explore the function of Smarcad1 further, Patrick will set up the necessary infrastructure at the University of Essex to work with Drosophila. Dominique will train Patrick and colleagues in key techniques to study innate immunity in Drosophila. Patrick will then work with collaborators in Brazil, where Drosophila is not used widely as a model, to further advocate its use basic scientific research.