Jun
09
2007

Fruit Flies - Is There Anything They Can't Do?

The answer to the question posed by the title of this entry is, of course, “yes.” There are many things fruit flies can’t do: they can’t roller-skate, they can’t drink a Pepsi in under 30 seconds, and they can’t get into an argument without resorting to foul language (trust me on this). There are other things they can’t do, but these are the main ones. And, until recently, “provide clues on inhibiting aging” was also on this list, but that may have changed.

Scientists at the University of Southern California (which happens to be the anti-aging capital of the world) have discovered that a single genetic change engineered in fruit flies can extend their life spans by a third, with no apparent side effects.
My mutant power? Eternal youth.: If we could only be a little more like them.
My mutant power? Eternal youth.: If we could only be a little more like them.

The scientists found a way to block certain cell receptors (areas on cells that transmit signals across the cell membrane) associated with aging and disease. Cells were bombarded with peptides (short proteins) until the researchers found a group that would bind to the aging-receptors, blocking them. Fruit flies were then genetically engineered to produce these specific receptor-blocking peptides. I don’t really understand this part of the process, but it involves getting the peptides to replicate the same way DNA replicates by fusing these peptides to RNA. At any rate, these flies did indeed live longer.

The technique could, hopefully have applications in treating human diseases – once specific disease-related receptors were located, scientists could go through their library of peptides until a group was found that bonds to the receptors. Some of us maintain hope, also, that our DNA might be altered so that it reproduces not just receptor-blocking peptides, but rad things like fireballs and adamantium claws. Scientists have odd priorities, though.

Fruit flies with mutant healing powers.

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