A larval fruit fly is hatched in the year 2011 and frozen while still pupating, half its body water solidified in frigid temperatures. After spending many generations in a state of suspended animation, the wee Drosophila melanogaster awakens and is allowed to grow up. One day, it wonders if it will ever be able to mate — but should it bring new larvae into this dystopian future?
In 2007, Harvard scientists figured out how to combine fluorescent proteins to create an entire color palette, and then used it to make mouse neurons glow so they could be traced through the brain. The “Brainbow” technique has helped scientists follow neurons’ connections, which had been almost impossible to untangle.
The burgeoning neural networks of fruit fly pupae solve a distributed computing problem, arranging sensory bristles in a very efficient, effective manner. Scientists who monitored the bristles‘ growth say they can mimic the flies’ method to build more effective communications networks.
Ambitious researchers think they might be able to map the human brain in just five years, navigating the complex networks between neurons by using advanced images. An Austrian scientist has another idea: Work backward by manipulating neurons to figure out what they do.
Researchers at Rutgers are trying to freeze fruit flies, but this isn't just some reaction to summer boredom in the biology lab. They are trying to freeze the summertime pests while keeping them alive to learn how to control the internal thermostats of living organisms. If they can figure out how to engineer cold-tolerant flies they should be able to do the same for human cells, and that could lead to extended shelf life for donated human organs.
Blue light smells like bananas -- if you're a genetically modified fruit fly.
Scientists in Germany figured out how to modify fruit fly larvae so they can "smell" light, encouraging them to move toward it, rather than away from it like they normally would. Before you get excited about actually smelling Skittles when you see a rainbow, however, bear in mind that the fruit fly larvae are much easier to manipulate than humans.
Neuroscientists have already spent the better part of a decade manipulating animal minds by using light signals to trigger genetically encoded switches. But a new study has now directly reprogrammed flies to fear and avoid certain smells, and all without the usual Pavlovian shock treatments.