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Fruit Fly Roundup

June 6, 2008

Fruit fly genes help researchers understand aging and pain in humans.


Fruitflies as guinea pigs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Luckily for medical researchers, humans and fruitflies have a lot in common. In a recent issue of the journal Aging Cell, researchers report the discovery of a fruitfly gene that is analogous to the gene in humans that causes a disease called Werner syndrome. People with Werner syndrome age rapidly right after puberty. Fruitflies normally live only two weeks. And the ability to study the disease in fruitflies will be a boon to researchers looking for new treatments.

In related news, researchers have found a protein in fruitflies called PAIN—P-A-I-N—that causes the flies to change their perception of things from pleasant to noxious. In people, similar proteins are involved in anxiety and pain on one hand, and attraction and addiction on the other. Studying the fruitfly protein could lead to new treatments for a variety of disorders. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the Science Society.