University of Iowa Biology Professors Alan Kay and Daniel Eberl have discovered a tiny heart that beats inside the brain of fruit flies. The heart, which is a secondary heart to the main heart, pumps on its own and provides the circulation for the antennae of the fruit fly. The pumping action of this secondary heart in the brain is also thought to cleanse the brain of waste through agitation when the heart beats in lieu of a circulation system in the brain as found in humans. Their discovery of the “head-heart” in fruit flies was recently published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Fruit flies are a model organism for research for several reasons. They have a short reproductive cycle which means that researchers can observe the consequences of changes in genetics quickly over several generations. In 1933 T.H. Morgan received a Nobel Prize after his research with fruit flies led him to understand the role of chromosomes in genetics. Fruit flies are instrumental in other types of research besides genetics. They have been studied to learn more about behavior, neuroscience, and aging, for example.
In addition to Morgan’s Nobel Prize in 1933, research completed with fruit flies has resulted in an additional five Nobel Prizes being awarded in later years. Most recently, Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Robash, and Michael W. Young won the Nobel Prize in 2017 for discovering the molecular underpinnings of circadian rhythms in fruit flies. NASA studies fruit flies in space to help with our understanding of microgravity and how it affects human physiology.
- Life Extension: Lessons from Drosophila this book provides readers with an overview of current research on the use of the Drosophila model to understand the genetic, molecular and physiological mechanisms that underlie the aging process.
- Recent Advances in the Use of Drosophila in Neurobiology and Neurodegeneration This volume reviews existing theories and current research surrounding the movement disorder Dyskinesia.
- An Atlas of Drosophila Genes: Sequences and Molecular Features The aim of this reference is to summarize information about most of the drosophila genes for which the complete nucleotide sequence is known.
- Drosophila models for human diseases This book provides a useful resource for all scientists who are starting to use the Drosophila model in their studies, and for researchers working in the pharmaceutical industry and using new screening models to develop new medicines for various diseases.
- Progress and prospects in evolutionary biology: the Drosophila model The explosion in use of Drosophila in evolutionary studies has resulted in an explosion of knowledge which has not heretofore been gathered into a single volume. The book spans the full range of evolutionary studies: population genetics, ecology, ecological genetics, speciation, phylogenetics, genome evolution, molecular evolution, and development.
- The Drosophila Model in Cancer This book provides a useful resource for a researcher who wishes to learn about and apply the Drosophila model to tackle fundamental questions in cancer biology, and to find new ways to fight against this devastating disease.