Fruit Flies Help Fight the War against Human Disease

authordebStarred Page By authordeb, 10th Apr 2017 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>General Health>Diseases & Infections

Fruit flies the stand-in for humans to fight diseases that are widespread allowing us to hopefully find an answer on how to prevent and treat many diseases.


Fruit flies and human genes are very similar with 75 percent of genes that cause disease in humans is also present in the fruit fly. Today fruit flies are usually the first stage in research for a wide range of human diseases including Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, cancer and obesity.


Researchers from Stanford University of Medicine for the first time discovered fruit flies could be used to understand how mutations linked to the development of diabetes influence the production and secretion of human insulin. This allows researchers to measure insulin levels in flies with very high sensitivity and reproducibility. Developed by research associate Sangbin Park, the new technique uses a chemical tag to label an insulin-like peptide called Ilp2 in fruit flies. This allows researchers to use an antibody analysis to measure insulin concentrations in the flies blood and cells at the same level in which insulin concentrations are measured in humans. This technique allows researchers to quickly identify what mutation is linked to type 2 diabetes in humans. ("Researchers Use Fruit Flies To Unlock Mysteries Of Human Diabetes". News Center. N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.)

Chronic Sleeplessness

Fruit flies sleep patterns are similar to humans. Researchers from John Hopkins determined the brain cells that are responsible for why delaying bedtime created chronic sleepiness. Researchers used genetic engineering to turn on small numbers of neurons in over 500 fruit fly strains. The team found flies with the silenced R2 neurons slept on a normal schedule but when the flies were sleep deprived at night they got about 66 percent less "rebound sleep" compared to control flies, suggesting that they felt less sleepy after sleep deprivation. In flies that were sleep deprived neurons were most active firing at about seven times each second. R2 neurons have higher firing rates the mores sleep deprived the flies were the firing of neurons put the flies to sleep. These findings may offer insight into human sleep disorders and open up new ways to promote long-lasting sleep for those with chronic insomnia that do not respond well to medications. (Sleep Drive Is Encoded by Neural Plastic Changes in a Dedicated Circuit, Liu, Sha et al.Cell , Volume 165 , Issue 6 , 1347 - 1360 )


Dr. Ross L. Cagan, PhD, and colleges at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, is taking a creative approach to treat cancer. Instead of using a targeted therapy to attack tumors they are making treatments more personalized. This creative treatment starts with the fruit fly. Researchers create a genetic copy of the patient’s tumor in a fruit fly and then test thousands of medications to see if any if alone or in combinations destroy the tumor without killing the fly. ("The Fight Against Cancer, One Fruit Fly At A Time". N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.)


Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in two papers looked at fruit flies, infection and sleep. In the first study researchers subjected fruit flies to sleep deprivation before infecting them with Serratia marcescens that can cause infections of the urinary or respiratory tract or Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria in which people develop mild illnesses especially after exposure to water. Both set of flies, sleep deprived and non-sleep deprived (control group) had increased sleep after infection. Researcher found that prior sleep deprivation made the flies sleep for a longer period after infection as compared to the control group. The flies slept longer and lived longer during the infection.

In the second study researchers manipulated sleep by using drug RU486 to induce expression of ion channels to alter neuronal activity in the mushroom body of the fly brain, to regulate sleep patterns. Flies that received the drug slept more and for longer periods of time up to two days before infection in comparison to the control group. The flies with greater sleep had faster and more efficient rates of riding the bacteria from their bodies. Increased sleep helps expedite the immune response by increasing resistance to infection and survival after infection. (Fruit Flies Sleep Away Infection". ALN. N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.)

Childhood Tumors

Researchers from Florida State University found that fruit flies can provide lots of information about an aggressive tumor that attacks young kids. Researchers used a fly’s iimaginal tissue which is made up of cells similar to human epithelia to understand the cancer gene. Professor of Biological Science Wu-Min Deng and postdoctoral researcher Gengqiang Xie expressly looked at malignant rhabdoid tumors which are highly aggressive that at the brain or kidneys usually in children under two years old. Around 20 to 25 new cases get diagnosed each year. The team homed in on a certain protein that was usually known to be part of the larger protein complex vital to normal growth and development. They found that the protein was similar to the ones in humans. In experiments the team removed the protein from several fruit flies. When it was removed the fruit flies immediately had tumor growth in tissues that line the organs. The team hopes to further investigate this protein to find out what causes it to occasionally misfire and stop suppressing the tumor growth. Their long-term goal is to find drug molecules to test on these proteins to see if they can develop a treatment. ("The Fight Against Cancer, One Fruit Fly At A Time". N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.)


Anthony, Andrew. "In Praise Of The Humble Fruit Fly". the Guardian. N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
"Pseudomonas Aeruginosa In Healthcare Settings | HAI | CDC". N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.


Diseases, Drosophila Melanogaster, Fruit Flies, Genetics, Health, Human Health, Research

Meet the author

author avatar authordeb
Author of the Love and Laughter series
Alternative Medicine Practitioner
Freelance Health Write
Works with Media companies for interviews and articles such as Howie Mandel for Afib,

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