Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


3D Fruit Fly Images to Benefit Brain Research

The fragile head and brain of a fly are not easy things to examine but MRC scientists have figured out how to make it a little simpler. And they hope their research will shed light on human disease.

Using an imaging technique, originally developed at the MRC Human Genetics Unit, called optical projection tomography (OPT) they have generated startling 3D images of the inside of a fruit fly for the first time. The OPT images could help to speed up genetic research into Alzheimer’s and other human diseases that affect brain cells.

Dr Mary O’Connell of the MRC Human Genetics Unit who led the research explained: ‘‘Neurodegeneration, the gradual loss of function of brain cells that occurs in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and motor neurone diseases, isn’t a strictly human phenomenon. Insects are affected by it too. In the autumn, bees and wasps often develop erratic behaviour before they die.’’

Because the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) and human share many genes with similar functions, the fly is widely used by genetic researchers to study how genes influence human disease.

... more about:
»OPT »O’Connell »brain cell »technique

‘‘It’s already known that defects in the equivalent fly genes involved in human brain diseases cause brain cells in fruit flies to lose function as they age,’’ Dr O’Connell continued.

OPT could help researchers to look at how the fly brain changes in response to alterations in the normal activity of a specific gene without the risk of damaging tissue through dissection.

In a paper published in the September 5 issue of the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE, the team describes how they have already used the technique to image individual cavities within the brain of an ageing fly and see the brain deteriorate.

MRC PhD student Leeanne McGurk who captured many of the OPT images explained why the technique works: ‘‘The dark colour of the fly exoskeleton prevents us from seeing inside it using a standard light microscope. In the past this has meant scientists have had to tease apart fruit fly tissues by hand – a laborious process. Now, we have got over the problem by bleaching the fly exoskeleton. When the fruit fly becomes colourless it is possible to use imaging techniques not only to view its internal organs but to generate 2D and 3D images of the entire fly. ’’

Using OPT images in this way will allow scientists to visualise where and how the products of selected genes are present in the fly. These patterns of gene expression, as they are known, will help to identify genes that control parts of the central nervous system and so provide detailed information about the human brain.

Bleaching of the exoskeleton to clear away the colour also allows images to be generated using other microscopic techniques that depend on penetration of light.

Dr O’Connell concluded: ‘‘This research is not simply limited to the study of conditions like Alzheimer’s but can also be used to study fly anatomy. The shape and size of organs can be affected by diseases like diabetes so imaging may yield clues to further our understanding of other conditions too.’’

For further information or to arrange an interview with Dr Mary O’Connell contact the Medical Research Council press office
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7637 6011
Citation: McGurk L, Morrison H, Keegan LP, Sharpe J, O’Connell MA (2007) Three-Dimensional Imaging of Drosophila melanogaster. PLoS ONE 2(9):e834. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000834

Andrew Hyde | alfa
Further information:

Further reports about: OPT O’Connell brain cell technique

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 >>>