November 15, 2013

Pick Fruit Flies for Diabetes Testing

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fruit-fliesIt’s not every day that we can say we have much in common with fruit flies, but as it turns-out, the way insulin affects our bodies is similar to the way it affects a fruit fly. This remarkable study was published in PLoS ONE.

Fruit flies procreate by the thousands. They don’t birth a litter, they multiply at the rate of a small town in West Virginia. Unlike humans, they live for about a month. They haven’t been awarded patents or Nobel prizes but they do share more than 60% of our genetic code.

The scientific genius behind Leslie Pick and her co-authors found the basic mechanisms that humans use to regulate blood sugar are shared with fruit flies. Although T1D and T2D differ in their cause of diabetes, fruit flies can provide a cost-effective, hastening vehicle to research one of the world’s most costly and hindering diseases.

Unlike mammals, fruit flies don’t have blood and needed to be genetically engineered to express genes that use insulin to transfer glucose, for energy. Pick said. “They were very, very small and sluggish; they had decreased body fat and higher levels of circulating blood sugar; and they did not reproduce very well.”

The significance of this study find that flies respond to insulin at the cellular level, like humans. The value in this finding is that fruit flies are more easily bred, cheaper, and less controversial to test on. Sounds heartless but PETA doesn’t protect the rights of insects, do they?

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