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Personal profile

Research interests

Background

We focus on revealing the mechanisms of genetic human diseases using Drosophila as a model system. In parallel to fundamental research of ubiquitous or highly differentiated cellular processes, the lab is also focused on applicative research in different and less exploited insect species such as the mosquito and recently introduced Black Soldier Fly (BSF). The lab utilizes a broad spectrum of molecular and cellular techniques, among them the CRISPR/Cas9 system, which is operated on a daily basis for genetic editing in the mosquito, Drosophila, and BSF.
Current Projects

Project I: Drosophila as a model system for studying human diseases – Drosophila has proven to be a highly relevant and productive model for elucidating molecular mechanisms underlying a variety of human pathologies as orthologous gene products have been shown to participate in analogous signaling circuitry. The high rate of consanguineous marriages in the Palestinian and Bedouin population enabled us to recruit a cohort of families with several cases of human diseases that affect neuron development and human fertility (both male and female). In this project, in collaboration with the genetics centers at Soroka and Hadassah hospitals, we aim to discover additional possible agents, and downstream signaling pathways operating in human development by using the Drosophila-mutant animal model.

Project II: Developing new super-strains of the Black Soldier Fly – Global climate warming, together with an instantly growing human population, is creating pressure and uncertainty on future food resource availability. Alternative sustainable protein sources for human and farmed animals’ consumption are of crucial importance. In this context, the novel agricultural field has already made waves in insect farming. One of the recently cultured insects is the Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens), found throughout the world in tropical and warm temperate regions. By use of genetic editing such as CRISPR/Cas9, we are focusing on introducing genetic improvements of the species for novel industry uses.


Project III: The role of the cell cytoskeleton in shaping cell morphology; Actin bundles in shaping cellular protrusions – Parallel actin bundles are composed of tightly packed filaments, all with the same polarity, cross-linked by an actin bundling protein. These actin bundles are key components of eukaryotic cytoskeleton structures such as the brush border of intestinal epithelial cells, stereocilia of hair cells of the vertebrate and ear, Sertoli cell-spermatid ectoplasmic specialization, the nurse-cell strut in Drosophila eggs, and insect epidermal cell types such as bristles and scales. In our laboratory, we are studying the mechanism underlying actin bundle formation using the Drosophila bristle and mosquito scales.

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