Mocking the Fruit Fly’s Contribution to Science

Keith, I will try to be as nice as….oh fuck it –

This is the most mindless, ignorant, uninformed comment that we have seen from Gov. Palin so far, and there has been a lot of competition for that prize.” (Richard Wolfe to Keith Olbermann ~ video below)

There – that little bugger – that’s a fruit fly.

You know the ones Sarah Palin maligned because she has no obvious understanding of the role the fruit fly plays in scientific research.  Having a strong biology background, one of the things we did in first year Biology and beyond (Cell Biology) was grow fruit fly colonies. They’re considered ‘standard model organism’ because approximately “75% of known human disease genes have a recognizable match in the genetic code of fruit flies (Reiter et al (2001) Genome Research: 11(6):1114-25), and 50% of fly protein sequences have mammalian analogues.

In looking for a picture of this pesky creature I instantaneously found an article from Science Daily that I read and will quote in a moment ‘cuz I found it so fascinating.  I also ran across a couple of other articles both which describe the influential role fruit flies play in (genetic) research.  The very article with the pic of the fly discusses the swapping out of one gene and the result in relation to ‘sexual roles’ reversal. Not only is it interesting, it’s entertaining. The other article relates to alcohol tolerance, and as one researcher explains: “If we can characterize similar genetic differences and neurobehavioral responses that underlie acute tolerance in humans, that could potentially provide new targets for the development of drugs to treat alcohol dependence.

At any rate….”looking into the mutant fruit fly’s immune system and blood cells” a researcher noted “excess cell growth during heart development.”  Fruit flies with a specific mutant (Dpp= ) had a correlating excess of “plasmatocytes (blood cells involved in digesting small infectious particles).” Why is this important?

Plasmatocytes are one of three types of immune cells that arise from hematopoietic stem cells – embryonic cells that only take on their adult roles based on signals they receive from signaling molecules, including Dpp….

The tie-in is here:

[Joel] Frandsen made a key observation: Dpp mutant flies are unable to produce one type of immune cell that normal flies do in response to an attack by pathogens. This was the first piece of evidence that Dpp might regulate the options available to hematopoietic stem cells. The lack of Dpp in fly mutants meant that their stem cells would only become plasmatocytes. The inability of Dpp mutant fruit flies to produce a particular immune cell type was not obvious under regular lab conditions….

The discovery that Dpp plays a direct role in immune system regulation in flies may have some direct implications for humans, offering new insight into human diseases caused by mutations in bone morphogenetic proteins. Newfeld says too, that scientists who study these morphogenetic proteins in mammals (proteins very similar to Dpp) have known for some time that these proteins are involved in the hematopoietic stem cell growth in the bone marrow. The similarities between the two organisms are intriguing.

One reason this particular article caught my attention was the phrase ‘bone morphogenetic proteins.’  I hear a lot about this because of our affiliation with the Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine.  There are patients who come in through SLIERS and IERH with grafts performed for whatever reason: traumatic injuries, amputations, burns, fusions, etc., and the wondrous options available have been made possible due to research performed using the freakin’ fruit fly as a model.

As above, Richard Wolfe had harsh words for Sarah Palin; it’s at the 5:00 mark.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Over at Pharyngula I happened upon this blistering of Sarah Palin’s policy speech.
This idiot woman, this blind, shortsighted ignoramus, this pretentious clod, mocks basic research and the international research community. You damn well better believe that there is research going on in animal models — what does she expect, that scientists should mutagenize human mothers and chop up baby brains for this work? — and countries like France and Germany and England and Canada and China and India and others are all respected participants in these efforts.
Hoo dear…. the little part about baby brains was just too visual for me.  But in the very next paragraph there IT is, exactly why fruit flies are invaluable to science.   I also happened upon a terrific post at ‘Biochemical Soul’ by Irradiatus, and not just because he called Sarah Palin “a blithering idiot” either.  He has pictures with more complete explanations than I want to take the time or have the qualifications to articulate.
Then our own Rachel Maddow weighs in ~
And before ya know it, the Europeans will be weighing in.  Oh wait, from the Europeans who heretofore have been ignoring us apparently.

Actually, Ms. Palin, its genetic power makes Drosophila research probably one of the best model systems in which to study not only the much cited genetic basis for autism (13 hits in PubMed), but also for many other psychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer’s (106 hits in PubMed), fragile X syndrome Rett syndrome (4 hits) and yes, also Down syndrome (109 hits). Fruit fly research is also advancing the study of cancer (5108 hits), Parkinson (109 hits) and addiction (31 hits). I won’t even start talking about the incredible boon (102 hits), Drosophila has been for all kinds of developmental biology (Nobel Prize 1995) including the development of the nervous system. My own research on operant learning and habit formation may also contribute to understanding all kinds of compulsive disorders and addiction in addition to advancing our basic comprehension of brain function. If you had just spent 5 minutes online, Ms. Palin, you would have gotten more information on fruit fly research than you could’ve handled. I kid you not.

We need more lipstick….

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