The first ever basic training package to teach students and scientists how to best use the fruit fly, Drosophila, for research has been published. It’s hoped it will encourage more researchers working on a range of conditions from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease to use the humble fly.
The unique scheme has been put together by Dr Andreas Prokop from the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester and John Roote from the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge.
John Roote said, “In 1910 Thomas Hunt Morgan isolated the first Drosophila sex-linked mutation, white. Since then many thousands of research workers have realised the potential of the humble fruit fly.
“The powerful research tools that we have today combined with a century of background knowledge, the vast collections of stocks that are available to everyone and the fortuitous ‘pre-adaptation’ of the fly for life in a laboratory ensure that Drosophila melanogaster maintains its position as the pre-eminent model organism for research in genetics. However, until now a comprehensive teaching programme to guide students through the often daunting first few steps has been surprisingly absent.”
Dr Prokop said: “People don’t realise just how useful the tiny fruit fly can be when it comes to research. Fellow scientists are often not aware of their genetic value for research. For example, about 75% of known human disease genes have a recognisable match in the genome of fruit flies which means they can be used to study the fundamental biology behind complex conditions such as epilepsy or neurodegeneration.”
Fruit flies have been used for scientific research for more than a hundred years. They have allowed scientific breakthroughs in genetics, body structure and function. The first jet lag gene and the first learning gene were identified in flies as well as breakthroughs in neuroscience, such as the discovery of the first channel proteins.