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fruit flies

Scientists Make Electrical Activity In Fruit Flies’ Brain Cells Light Up

Like a cartoon light bulb, but with more genetic engineering and neuroscience.

We know that electricity drives neural impulses in the brain, forming complex networks of neurons, but it's still difficult to trace the electrical activity of the nervous system. Scientists at the Yale School of Medicine have developed a fluorescent protein that may provide a more effective way to map the electrical impulses in brain cells.

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What Fruit Flies Eat as Larvae Affects Their Offspring, and That Could Also Be True of Humans

I guess this means I shouldn't have eaten that bowl of sugar that one time in third grade?

A study done at The University of Alabama in Huntsville has shown that the larval diet of fruit flies has an impact on their offspring long before they're born or even conceived. Fruit flies are often used in studies as a stand in for humans because we have a similar metabolism, so that could mean what we eat growing up could have an impact on our kids.

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Fruit Flies Taught to Be Helpless and Depressed for Science

Don't take this wrong, but in a lot of ways, you're not so different from a fruit fly. At least, the same sort of things that can make you depressed, like feeling helpless to change or bad situations in your life, also make fruit flies exhibit similar symptoms, such as slower movement and general lethargy. That's according to a study set to be published next month in the journal Current Biology which suggests that the roots of depression may go much deeper than once thought.

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Tiny Space Suits Let Insect Larvae Survive in a Vacuum

There aren't much better ways to get a close look at something than by using a scanning electron microscope (SEM), but the microscopes have one major flaw when it comes to studying biology: They only work in a vacuum, while living creatures, well, don't work in a vacuum, unless you count "quickly shriveling up and dying" as work. A team of scientists in Japan, though, may have found a way around that obstacle. By treating insect larvae with electron beams, they can build "nanosuits" that can keep the animals alive in a vacuum for up to an hour.

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Superfly: Science Engineers Fruit Flies That Produce Synthetic Proteins

Researchers in the United Kingdom have engineered fruit flies to produce synthetic proteins built in a lab. While the proteins don't give the flies any superpowers as of yet, the experiment opens the door to the prospect of creating beneficial proteins down the line that could improve the health and longevity of the insects. Building on work done on simple nematode worms last year, researchers at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology inserted DNA codons that contain instructions on how to make a home brewed protein of their own invention into the DNA of a fruit fly. That all means that we are basically a couple of years of research and one horrific family tragedy away from Spider-Man being a real thing. The time has come for rejoicing.

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Study Finds That Flies Who are Rejected for Sex Binge Drink, Sheds Light on Addiction

A new study that may shed light on depression and addiction in humans has found that male fruit flies which seek sex and are rejected by female fruit flies binge drink alcohol. The study, led by Galit Shohat-Ophir, focuses on a chemical found in the brain of flies called neuropeptide F which seems to link social experiences with psychological states. Flies, it seems, are just like people, and sometimes just need a cold one at the end of a hard day.

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Today in Synesthesia: Fruit Fly Larvae Go Bananas For Blue Light

A group of German scientists headed by Prof. Klemens Störtkuhl have imparted fruit fly larvae with one of the coolest new genetic traits I've heard of today: Synesthesia. Specifically, these larvae can smell light.

With the goal of learning more about the operations of the neural network, these researchers from Bochum and Göttingen have worked to activate specific receptor neurons in the larvae. All 28 olefactory neurons are capable of producing a protein that can be triggered by light, so the scientists had to choose whether to be cruel or kind. Depending on which neuron was activated, the fly would have a very different response to the light. One cell might trigger an odor that repulsed the fly, while another might trigger an attractive scent.

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D. melanogaster, D. melanogaster, Wherefore Art Thou, D. melanogaster?

Back when I was in AP Biology, we had a lab experiment that involved breeding Drosophila melanogaster for traits. After explaining the months-long fruit fly plague that had swept his classroom the last time he had tried doing the lab with real D. melanogaster, our teacher showed us the web-based simulation that we would be using this year. So, I've never actually spent much time around fruit flies that didn't involve swatting them. But that doesn't mean I don't know how important they are to geneticists! D. melanogaster are well suited to the study of hereditary traits for a great number of reasons, including their fecundity (18 points in Scrabble), short life cycle, and easily determined gender, not to mention that they are extremely easy and cheap to care for. They also have only four chromosomes (pictured above, because I wanted to find a relevant picture that didn't give me the willies). Drosophila researchers are in an uproar, however, over a taxonomic change that may rename the species.

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