Nervous System of the Fruit Fly

October 15, 2011 by
Filed under: Research, Spinewave Bulletin 

The nervous system of the fruit fly, magnified 40 times.

There was a time when we thought genes controlled everything and that humans were genetically superior. Yet the human genome is estimated to have only 23,000 protein-encoding genes, while the minuscule fruit fly measuring less than 0.1 of an inch, encodes about 14,000.

If your genetics were responsible for so much, why wouldn’t we have more genes than the mere fruit fly? Initially scientists thought we’d have near on 2 million genes in our cells and there was going to be a magic formula for every disease – and subsequently each one being patented and sold! Unfortunately it was discovered that you have to stop blaming your parents for your problems as the science of epigenetics (and the science of chiropractic) came to the fore.

Click here to listen to a Brief Introduction on Epigenetics.

About 75% of known human disease genes have a recognisable match in the genome of fruit flies, and 50% of fly protein sequences have mammalian homologues. An online database called Homophila is available to search for human disease gene homologues in flies and vice versa. The fruit fly, Drosophila, is being used as a genetic model for several human diseases including the neurodegenerative disorders Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, spinocerebellar ataxia and Alzheimer’s disease. The fly is also being used to study mechanisms underlying ageing and oxidative stress, immunity, diabetes, and cancer, as well as drug abuse.

Image: Jana Boerner. Reconstruction of Drosophila sp. (fruit fly) nervous system (40X). 2011. Nikon Small World.

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