Saturday, October 25, 2008

For All of You That Paid Attention During Science Class

... and especially for our own IT, thanks for all that you do to help in human health as researchers in your various capacities.

Photo Caption: Different species of fruit flies exhibit remarkably different patterns of wing decoration. At the top is the familiar Drosophila melanogaster, the workhorse model organism of genetics, which differs markedly from other fruit fly species. Exploring a single gene that controls pigment deployment in fruit flies, a group led by UW-Madison biologist Sean Carroll has found the molecular switches that control where the pigmentation is deployed on the wing. The finding explains how common genes can be controlled to produce the seemingly endless array of patterns, decoration and body architecture found in animals.
Photo: courtesy of Nicolas Gompel and Benjamin Prud'homme [italics mine]
Date: 2004


Now, for those of you not in genetic or other fields of research, or who were not paying attention in high school science (or university, for that matter), let's take a quick look at the wonderful world of fruit fly research, WHY it needs to remain well funded, and why the vice president's new wardrobe should be auctioned off and the funds donated to fruit fly research.

A Little History on the Wee Fruit Fly and the Science of Genetics, Bioengineering, Molecular Biology etc.

Another indication of how closely we’re related to Drosophila is the discovery that about 60 percent of its genes can be found in humans and 70% of the genes known to cause human malignancy have been found to exist in similar form in the fruit fly. No wonder this little relative is one of the most studied organisms in biology.--from

Thomas Hunt Morgan Cal Tech Nobel Laureate

Thomas Hunt Morgan won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1933 for his chromosome theory of heredity. On the basis of experimental research with the fruit fly (Drosophila), he demonstrated that genes are linked in a series on chromosomes and that they determine identifiable, hereditary traits.

An embryologist by training, Morgan turned his attention to Drosophila in 1908. On the basis of fly-breeding experiments, he developed a hypothesis of sex-linked characteristics, which he theorized were part of the X chromosome of females. In 1928, he came to Cal Tech to organize work in biology. The most influential biologist in America at that time, Morgan pioneered the new science of genetics, the essential science for the future of biology. (...)

--Herman Muller, Nobel Laureate 1946. American geneticist Hermann Muller's work introduced the conceptual and empirical basis for modern molecular biology. Breeding huge numbers of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, he demonstrated that exposure to X rays can cause mutations in genes and chromosomes of living cells, and warned that radiation could cause mutations in the human gene pool as well. His research won Muller the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1946.

--1995: Christine Nüsslein-Volhard: Co-winner [of the Nobel Prize] in physiology/medicine for her work on genetic control of early embryonic development in fruit flies (page to bottom), and as reported in the New York Times, October 10, 1995. Two of the three Nobel Laureate co-winners were Americans, one from Cal Tech, and one from Princeton.

There are many more prize winners whose basis of study were built on the foundations of fruit fly genetics.

So, Why Are These Studies Important?

These studies serve as the basis for understanding of the genetic cause of disease, for one. That includes the VERY disease Palin suddenly has an interest in, autism. Obviously, she didn't do her homework (as usual).

While the Palins have a child with Down's Syndrome, Palin's sister has a child with autism. Interestingly, research into autism includes a number of studies using (gasp!) fruit flies.

--What kind of genetic studies? The list of human-related topics fruit fly researchers are currently working on is surprisingly broad in scope: cancer; birth defects; development of the respiratory and circulatory systems; cardiovascular development and disease; taste, sight, smell and hearing; learning and memory; brain disease; sleep; drug abuse; aging; and diabetes.

Those were just the topics covered at the meeting. Missing from the list, but currently under investigation by scientists using fruit flies as a model, are eye development, circadian rhythms, blood cell development, malaria and Parkinson's disease, to name a few.

And of course, I need a little mini-rant, so here it is.

Do me a favor, Ms. Palin; just shut up. You have absolutely nothing to offer the United States on any issue and you are nothing more than an undereducated embarrassment.

Just because you, Ms. Palin, have little to no science training and certainly little respect for science and apparently none for college education--none of your adult children have attended college, your husband has no college education--doesn't mean that the rest of us share your anti-intellectualism.

As for the GOP, you can apologize to the US public and science community by auctioning off the embarrassing clothing of Ms. Palin and donating the funds to fruit fly research. It is painfully clear that the fruit fly has a much more important role to play in this world (and perhaps a better brain) than Ms. Palin