Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Low-cal diet's effects seen in fly brain, mouthpart

Transmission of nerve signals is enhanced in the insects that eat less

A novel technique for measuring tiny, rapid-fire secretions in the brains and mouthparts of fruit flies (drosophila) is providing insights into the beneficial effects of eating less — information that ultimately could help people suffering from neuromuscular disorders.

Using the method, researchers uncovered never-before-seen brain chemistry that helps explain why fruit flies genetically manipulated to mimic conditions such as Parkinson's disease and myasthenia gravis are more vigorous and live longer when fed a restricted diet.

Published in June by Aging Cell, the research was conducted by a team from the School of Medicine and the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

Why eating less may be therapeutic

Senior author Benjamin Eaton, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology, says the results demonstrate how limiting calories may be therapeutic for people with various syndromes.

Lead author Joel Rawson, Ph.D., and the Eaton team developed a novel system to analyze the impact of diet on life span and motor behavior as well as on neurotransmission, which is believed to underlie most neurological disorders in humans.

Flies on the low-calorie diet showed a 100 percent increase in the release of brain chemicals, which are called neurotransmitters, from their neurons. These chemicals carry signals from one nerve cell to another across gaps called synapses. The brain has millions of synapses that are believed to be the critical structures required for normal brain function. Diseases such as Parkinson's harm them irreparably.

Firing up the muscle activity

Furthermore the chemicals were secreted at critical locations. "Diet restriction increased the neurotransmitters released at synapses called neuromuscular junctions," Dr. Eaton said. "These synapses, which form on muscle, transmit nerve impulses from the brain to muscles, resulting in movement. If neuromuscular junctions degenerate, resulting in the release of less neurotransmitter, then muscle activity diminishes. This is observed in diseases such as myasthenia gravis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)."

The observation that diet could directly affect the amount of neurotransmitter secreted by the neuron was a novel observation that had not been seen previously.

"People have seen that diet has effects on the nervous system, but the nuts and bolts of what it is doing to neurons have not been established," Dr. Eaton said. ""We believe we have shown a novel and important effect."

Probing the fly proboscis

The team genetically engineered a single pair of motor neurons to develop neurodegenerative disease, resulting in a decrease of the flies' ability to extend the proboscis, which they use to gather food. The team then dissected the head to locate the appropriate muscles on the proboscis and quantified the neurotransmitter activity occurring there, which continues to take place even after death.

"We went into the very muscles that that these motor neurons controlled and analyzed neurotransmission using electrodes," Dr. Eaton said. "We showed diet can rescue proboscis extension by increasing the amount of neurotransmitter released. This suggests that diet could be an important therapy for improving muscle function during motor diseases such as ALS."

Next up is to define the proteins in neurons that are being altered by diet restriction, he said.

An Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar Award (AG-NS-0415-07) to Dr. Eaton supported this work. Dr. Rawson is supported by grant T32-AG021890 from the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health.

On the Web and Twitter

For current news from the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, please visit our news release website or follow us on Twitter @uthscsa.

About the UT Health Science Center San Antonio

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country's leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $231 million in fiscal year 2011. The university's schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 28,000 graduates. The $736 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways "We make lives better®," visit

Will Sansom | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>