Our Biology lessons on genes, inheritance and heredity always start with Drosophila Melanogaster or the common ‘fruit fly’. Its more than a century and the Drosophila continues to occupy a key role in science research in the areas of genetics, enlighten various aspects of human health and diseases. With tremendous scientific advancements, it keeps a person wondering what is extra-special about the fruit fly that encourages scientists to repeatedly use them despite profound development in research tools.
Are We Biased in Choosing the Drosophila for Research?
Using humans for research is terrorizing and next to impossible due to multitudinous ethical and practical issues. To satisfy the requirements of a study, a good model organism should comply with similar functions and pathways with humans on a molecular level. We use model organisms such as mice and fruit fly to study about cell functioning and genetics. Although agreeable that humans and fruit flies are dissimilar organisms, it is also surprising that the biological pathways and mechanisms overlap between these species. The well-known journal Science listed the genome sequence of Drosophila which in comparison to the human genome shows these key facts that make this insect a model specimen in science labs:
The similarity between the genome structures of humans and drosophila are critical for using the fruit fly to better understand human behavior, development and genetic diseases. The different human conditions and behaviors for which Drosophila has been used might surprise and fascinate any human. Genes nowadays are used to predict a person’s weight loss/gain ratio, but this still remains a field to be further explored and analyzed before coming into definitive conclusion. Read more on nutrigenetics/nutrigenomics and the impact of genes on health and weight from the website www.firsteatright.com.
Currently under study are genes linked to neurological diseases, cancer, hypoxic response, infectious diseases, etc. The fruit fly is emerging to be a critical research element in the clinical drug discovery process and is a potential model for wound healing. In the bioengineering domain, Drosophila embryos are utilized to test the safety of bioengineering technologies. New therapies to treat heart diseases will be a reality in the near future for which the research is already underway. All these together make Drosophila the numero uno choice of scientists for research purpose.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.