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Author: admin, 29.08.2014. Category: Organic Foods

A million tiny fruit flies live in the laboratory of Sergey Nuzhdin, professor of biological sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. The flies are not (thankfully) buzzing around the room but safely contained in small glass vials — thousands of them. Nuzhdin and his team refer to this room as “The Flybrary.” It provides the raw material for their experiments using flies as models to study genomic analysis of social behavior. Working closely with Paul Marjoram, associate professor of research in preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Nuzhdin is a staunch advocate of increasing cross-departmental collaboration between USC Dornsife and researchers on the Health Sciences Campus. Thanks to a Research Collaboration Fund award from the USC Office of Research Advancement led by Randolph Hall, vice president of research, Nuzhdin and Marjoram have received grants totaling $4.2 million to study the social behavior of flies as a model for complex behavior in humans. Nuzhdin, Marjoram and their social behavior team use a variety of methodologies, ranging from traditional observation to high-throughput sequencing and automated tracking. Through the lens of a powerful microscope, senior postdoctoral researcher Julia Saltz observed a group of fruit flies interacting on a mixture of sugar, agar and dead yeast, which replicates their natural diet of rotting fruit. Researchers use fruit flies because they can create genotypes — cloned groups developed by inbreeding. Marjoram and Foley are developing computer technology to track and annotate behavior and interactions between flies.
Saltz and Foley’s research demonstrates that a fruit fly’s genetic makeup influences the company it keeps.
Their research provided proof for the first time that this grouping according to social preference, known as social niche construction (SNC), has a genetic basis.
Nonaggressive genotypes should not be considered “broken males,” Saltz said, pointing out that the flies were pursuing “an alternate social strategy,” which brought them mating success. The team is also examining emergent properties in social systems, in which they create mixed societies using different genotypes by forcing aggressive and nonaggressive males to go into their preferred and nonpreferred group size and observe how they function.
Foley translated this into human terms by giving the example of someone who was constantly rejected in high school, who thus tends to be shier and more socially awkward in the outside world. The team also researches how genetics plays a role in deciding whether to stay or to leave social groups. Marjoram and Foley are writing software to analyze how different genetic profiles result in varied decision making. The team’s research shows how genetic variation is maintained in populations by comparable processes, which allow different genotypes to be equally successful. Research in humans has shown that genotypes influence friendship choices, a process that has been implicated in the development of substance abuse.
By observing the behavior of flies, Nuzhdin and his team hope to find answers to those questions. Nuzhdin paid tribute to Saltz and Foley, the senior post docs he co-appointed with Marjoram.
Saltz and Foley’s research has been recognized with an article in Science Daily, while a research paper they authored was named Best Student Paper by The American Naturalist. Nuzhdin also noted his team’s collaboration with USC Dornsife’s Simon Tavare, holder of the George and Louise Kawamoto Chair in Biological Sciences and professor of biological sciences, and his group.
Ardekani developed several tracking tools and methods for studying animal behavior, including the social behavior of Drosophila.
Back in The Flybrary, a particularly aggressive male was so busy chasing several rivals around the petri dish that he left the female unattended.
Using the system of colored dots, Saltz tracks and records the behavior of the tiny fruit flies.
The $12 million award for Keck School of Medicine and others supports research on aggressive tumors in African-American women. Researchers are exploring whether machine learning might play a role in helping them screen for autism. A clear-cut approach to autism screening and diagnosisNew algorithms improve efficiency and identify more specific behavioral targets for intervention. Removing the Lubricin gene from the zebrafish genome results in arthritis in their jaws and fins, according to researchers.
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USC Stem Cell scientist reaches a turning pointNIH Pathway to Independence Award will help Lindsey Barske transition to the faculty stage as she hopes to learn more about human birth defects.
This time of year, it’s the University of Summer ConstructionMore than 150 projects are underway on the University Park Campus, from dorm renovations to entirely new buildings.
Elyn Saks, second from left, poses with the three performers who portray her in the opera The Center Cannot Hold.

Professor’s life story proves opera-worthyElyn Saks’ revealing memoir of her lifelong struggle and journey with mental illness is translated into music. Allyson Felix celebrates after winning gold in the women's 200-meter finals in the 2012 London Olympics.
This is the eleventh of 15 Household Bugs in SW Florida That May Freak You Out, which can be downloaded from our free eBook library.
Go the extra mile and clean out your garbage cans when they are empty to remove any trace of debris.
Usually fruit flies are not a permanent problem in your home, and it is rare to need professional help to remove them. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Fruit flies entered the laboratory almost through the back window a little more than 100 years ago. If you ask a geneticist, humans are brothers to mice and just first cousins to flies, sharing 99% and 60% of protein-coding genes, respectively.
A recent renaissance in neuroscience is also bringing the fly to the forefront of our efforts to understand the brain.
The relatively small number of cells is a key advantage for brain mapping, and large efforts are under way to label, trace and catalog every single neuron in the fly brain. Just a few weeks back, Chicago hosted the Genetics Society of America's annual "fly meeting," bringing together thousands of fly scientists from around the world. The fruit fly brain, tiny compared to the mouse and minuscule compared to the human a€“ but still so useful in research. It's worth remembering that neither Mendel nor Morgan expected that their work could have a direct impact on medicine.
If you have a Facebook account, you are likely to have seen someone pour an ice bucket on themselves in the name of raising awareness for amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS). UNSW scientists have achieved a world first, publishing the complete DNA sequence of the Queensland fruit fly a€“ a development that will improve both biosecurity and methods for controlling this global horticultural pest. The language used in the switches that turn genes on and off has remained the same across millions of years of evolution, according to a new study led by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. Cancers arise in skin, muscle, liver or other types of tissue when one cell becomes different from its neighbors.
The flies are used by Professor Sergey Nuzhdin and his team to advance our understanding of whether behavior is determined by genetics or by social environment.
Major support came in two recent grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, aided by the National Institute of Mental Health. Given that the fruit flies are so tiny, the researchers mark them with different colored dots to indentify them and track their behavior.
A red X shows flies are engaged in social interaction, including courtship behavior and aggression between males.
This allows scientists to study their behavior in a way that, for obvious reasons, is not possible with human subjects.
Nuzhdin’s team hopes that computer tracking will help them unlock the secrets of fly courtship and determine how less aggressive males are still successful in courting females.
They found that genotypes differ in their social preference between joining smaller or larger groups, with aggressive males preferring smaller groups and nonaggressive males opting for larger groups.
So the ones that care the most are also the ones that are affected the most,” Saltz explained. It also helps us understand how interaction between our genetic makeup and the social environment determines our behavior.
This is impractical with humans, who interact primarily in one social environment, making it impossible to separate whether social environment affects behavior or whether behavior affects choice of social environment. They include Reza Ardekani, who recently earned his PhD in computational biology and bioinformatics, former research assistant Anurag Biyani and PhD student Mohammad Abbasi Dezfouli. Tavare, Ardekani and Biyani created software combining computer vision techniques and statistical analyses to enable tracking of individual fruit flies while in groups. A less aggressive male spotted his opportunity and successfully approached her, beginning a slow courtship dance by vibrating his legs on her head. However, Saltz says that after staring at them in the lab for five years, they don’t look so small to her anymore. However, there are cases in which it’s tricky to find the source of a fruit fly infestation. When that happens, a thorough investigation and the proper use of professional pesticides may be the only way to permanently solve the problem.

When you download the above eBook, you’ll also have the chance to learn more about this pest in one of our other eBooks. My favorite is an animal the size of a pinhead, that can fly and land on the ceiling, that stages an elaborate (if not beautiful) courtship ritual, that can learn and remembera€¦ I am talking about the humble fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. The excitement was still fresh after rediscovery of Gregor Mendel's work on the genetics of peas in 1900.
Our anatomy and physiology are also related, so that we can use these laboratory animals to design powerful experiments, hoping what we find will be of significance to animals and humans alike.
One of the things we least understand is how our own brain produces our emotions and behavior. It deals with an incredible flow of sensory information: an obstacle approaching, the enticing smell of overripe banana, a hot windowsill to stay away from, a sexy potential mate. Combine this with the unique wealth of information on the genetics of this little animal, and you will see how we are now able to design incredibly powerful experiments in which we alter the "software" (that is, introduce specific changes in the genome) to create animals with unique and predictable changes in the "hardware" (the brain circuits) to ask questions about brain function.
But the unique advantage of the fly is that we can pinpoint every single neuron that's important for a particular response or behavior, precisely map how they connect to each other and silence or activate each one to figure out how the whole thing works. One of the topics discussed was that, in this tough economic climate, funding cuts to public agencies are disproportionately hurting research on fruit flies in favor of more "translational" approaches a€“ that is, research that has more immediate practical applications. Yet when, hopefully soon, we manage to "cure" cancer a€“ a genetic disease par excellence a€“ they should be among the very first people receiving a thank you note from humanity.
As with much basic research, the direct benefits from this work may be around the corner, or may take a little longer to find.
Yet the majority of rice crops that supply 90 percent of the world come from just two domesticated varieties, japonica and indica.
While most scientists believe that all lifeforms evolved from a common, primitive ancestor microorganism, the details are blurry.
One of them appeared to temporarily forget the female as he switched directions to head off his rival. The numbers next to each fly show coordinates used to track its movements on a grid, while blue dots chart their position.
It was an outlandish notion at the time that Mendel's simple laws of inheritance could apply even to animals. They furthered Mendel's work to discover that genes are located on chromosomes, where they are arranged, in Morgan's words, like "beads on a string" a€“ a breakthrough that was recognized with the Nobel prize in 1933.
It's undeniable that the research on animal models a€“ such as nematodes, flies, fish and mice a€“ has contributed immensely to what we know about our own body and as a result is helping us tackle the diseases that plague us. Scientists are naturally attracted by the unknown, making this one of the most exciting open frontiers in biology.
And it does this literally on-the-fly, as the little marvel is computing suitable trajectories around the room.
It would be a big mistake to curb fruit fly research now that the flies are just getting warmed up to tackle some of the most interesting questions in biology.
While fruit flies do not bite, they can be a nuisance and have been known to bother homeowners. You might also find fruit flies in recycling bins, behind refrigerators or freezers, in sinks and drains or near food storage areas. By night, the superhero that contributes to saving millions of human lives as one of the key model systems of modern biomedical research.
To test this revolutionary idea, scientists were looking for an animal they could keep easily in the lab and reproduce in large numbers. With the success of Morgan's "flyroom," the humble fruit fly was set on its way to becoming one of the leading models in modern biology, contributing vast amounts of knowledge to many areas a€“ including genetics, embryology, cell biology, neuroscience. On this front, the services of the fruit fly will certainly be required for some time to come. Yet the fly brain is composed of only about 100,000 neurons (compared with nearly 100 billion for human beings) and can fit easily through the eye of the finest needle.
Apparently unimpressed with this display of male virility, she turned her back on him before flying away.

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