Introduction: The use of yeasts in various fields dates back to thousands of years ago, but their biological significance has only recently been discovered. Genomes of many members of this relatively small group have been sequenced, and the consequent studies on them and on various cell processes have revealed similarities between yeast species Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe, and other eukaryotes, suggesting that they may be used as eukaryotic model organisms.
Methods: A literature search was conducted investigating general yeast characteristics, genetics and physiology, as well as modern applications in biomedical research as model organisms.
Results: Yeasts have many traits that make them especially favorable in research: they can easily be cultivated in laboratory conditions where their metabolism may be altered by tweaking the growth medium properties. Additionally, analyzing the yeast and human genome sequences has revealed astonishing similarities, with many successfully mapped homologous genes.
Discussion: By varying environmental conditions of a S. cerevisiae culture, it was found that such treatments could affect respiration in yeast. Proving useful in research of antifungal drugs and interactions between fungal pathogens and hosts, yeast was also used as a model for studying prion related diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, amongst others.
Conclusion: With all the yeast characteristics—their simple requirements for growth, their genome and metabolism similar to other eukaryotes, and their use in studying varying disease conditions—it is understandable and clear why yeasts are such widely used model organisms. Considering recent advancements, their application in biomedical research will inevitably increase over time.
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