Flies as model system?
(Flies enthusiasts: no need to read this section, we know you love flies too!)
For those of you that read the word 'flies' and thought of house flies... well, those are not the flies we are talking about. We are talking about the fruit flies Drosophila melanogaster (the one in the picture). Since the 1900s these little flies have helped scientists understand a lot about what we know of our human genome by creating many mutants and genetic tools that allow us to study their genes and proteins. Therefore they are a great genetically amenable system to study a plethora of research questions.
Here are some characteristics that make these flies great for research:
1) Their genome information is available.
2) Manipulating the genome of Drosophila is pretty feasible. Large collection of mutant and transgenic flies are commercially available (thanks to the help of hundreds of scientists around the world).
3) Their life cycle is short, making them great for studying lifespan and aging. For example, we can study how interventions (i.e. diet, drug, genetic) can shorten or extend lifespan and affect the physiology of the animal.
4) The phenotypes of the aged intestine are well characterized and easily measured using specific protocols and approaches.
5) Their gut microbiome can be easily manipulated and we can test the effects of changes on tissue physiology.
6) Importantly, the Drosophila genome is 60% homologous to that of humans. Yes, you heard right! and ~ 75% of the genes responsible for human diseases have homologs in flies (Ugur et al., 2016). This means that flies can teach us about how our body works and we can use that information to develop new drugs and therapies.
The list goes on.
We want to emphasize that using flies will help us answer the research questions posted on this website. That's why they are great model organisms and we love working with them.