Fruit Fly Science

Drosophila fruit flies are the darlings of the scientific community where research into their ways and their   have been ongoing for nearly a century. This little antagonist to the housewife – yes this is the little minute flying insect that swarm around over-ripe fruit in the kitchen – is all the rage in the field of genetics as it relates to embryology.

Of course there are vast differences between Drosophilia genome and the human genome, but there are likewise likenesses. Obviously the best likeness is the importance and knowledge of both since both the fruit fly and the human genome have both been fully completed.

Yet before this discussion goes further, a question must be answered that surely is on the minds of readers who are unacquainted with the important and the majesty of this little insect. Why all the rage and wonder about the this little insect? What sets it apart from other insects and other more likely specimens?

According to Gerard Manning on his web site, the fruit fly has been studied for so long, and is so well known to the scientist, it is a natural choice. Several thousand scientists are at work studying it. “and part of it is practical: it’s a small animal, with a short life cycle of just two weeks, and is cheap and easy to keep large numbers. Mutant flies, with defects in any of several thousand genes are available, and the entire genome has recently been sequenced.”

What was found during its genome sequencing that showed differences to the human genome sequencing that relates directly to research? The fruit fly genome has around 165 bases and 14,000 genes while he human genome has 3,400 million bases and 22,500 genes.

After the project of finished, the fruit fly was really put  on the map for research because it is an easy to read blue print of the early beginnings even though there are differences between the insects DNA and that of humans, it gives vital information on how life starts at such a minute level. But mostly the Drosophilia is used in teaching about genetics.

In the human genome, the research goes on. Although the project was finished in 2003, there is still much unknown about the genes, but the field is a popular one for medical researchers. And part of the ongoing research if learning about other genetic projects such as the mouse, and many other types of flies other than the Drosophilia. Those mainly to see if the blanks can be filled in about early biological development.

Facts found in humans is that the human genome sequence is nearly the same with a possibility of a one tenth of a percent being different and that although the genes have been discovered and labeled, there is nothing known about fifty percent of them. This of course is what the scurrying about relates to, trying to find out knowledge to fill in the blanks.  

Possibly there is more important relationship between the minute little fruit fly and the adult human body with its rebirth of cells renewing and growing and building tissue than is now know. Certainly that likelihood exists else why all the activity in the labs concerning the activities of this little pest? Answers may be forthcoming, but now the most obvious one is where does this little bit of nothing come from when it gets a whiff of an over ripe banana and lands precisely nearby?

That question was asked of WiseGeek and the answer was quite interesting. Others it seemed, in years past, when less knowledge was known, thought there was a spontaneous burst:  Fruit flies magically sprung into being when overripe fruit was present. They seemed to have no beginning, but suddenly they just were.

No, say today’s wise geek’s, they smell food from far away and they lay their eggs everywhere. While they live only about ten days they leave their eggs that can hatch when the conditions are just right. They feed on alcohol that is fermented from the decay of the ripe fruit. And that in the final analysis, may be another likeness to human beings. And it may also account for the interest in learning more about these tiny creatures. Is it possible, that one day they will be able to tell people more about themselves than they now know?