Banana flies help Bergen researchers understand cancer in humans

Banana flies help Bergen researchers understand cancer in humans
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  • Researchers in Bergen are now using banana flies to get answers to medical questions. The banana fly contains 70% of the genes that cause diseases in humans.
  • The banana fly has helped win six Nobel Prizes, including studies of genetics, radiation, the sense of smell, and the immune system.
  • In addition to the banana fly, zebrafish are also used in research at the University of Bergen.

When Fergal O'Farrell got a job in Bergen Four years ago, he brought with him some productive little creatures.

One thousand plastic tubes containing banana flies were tightly packed in a moving box and mailed from Oslo.

Once in Bergen, Farrell picked up the box from a store, placed it in front of him on the electric scooter and stumbled off.

-It's not that easy with all the cobblestones here in town.

Banana flies were O'Farrell's gift to city scientists.

Yes, banana flies, those little flying pests that buzz around rotting fruit. They are also called fruit flies.

For up to half an hour, flies can tolerate anesthesia under a microscope.

In the high technology center O'Farrell flies are put to good service. They are used to find out why some cancer cells grow and destroy others. What affects human aging? How hormonal signals are received and cells communicate. Among other things.

The banana fly is a tool to answer researchers' questions. They can't answer everything, but in some areas banana flies are a perfect fit, says Irish-born O'Farrell.

-Do they call you Lord of the Flies?

The first assistant laughed loudly:

– Not now, no.

More than 10,000 flies enjoy life in the private closet, where the temperature is constant at 18 degrees, the humidity is 78%, and the food dish is never empty.

Although bananas fly They are only a few millimeters in size, and have simpler shapes than well-known organs. Brain, heart, respiratory system and stomach.

Then of course he has a typical insect thing. Wings, for example.

The greatest similarity is found in genetic material and cells. The banana fly contains 60% of human genes. Through banana flies, researchers can study 70% of the genes that cause diseases in humans.

In addition to; Weasel Black-bellied fruit fly It has, in contrast to humans, fewer variants per gene, and the genetic material is stable across generations. In other words, easier to manipulate and understand.

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In the banana fly laboratory, patience and precision are important.  From left: Anna Martha Krahner, Silje Arseth Rosnes, and Nora Solheim.  Fergal O'Farrell is supervising the work.

On the fifth floor Marienholmen has O'Farrell's banana fly laboratory.

This is the second banana fly laboratory in the country. The first contains Radiumhospitalet, where O'Farrell previously worked.

On this day, four women sit on their laps and stare into their own microscopes.

On the light plate under the microscope lie banana flies, completely motionless. Carbon dioxide flows from two thin hoses, killing flies in seconds. They can endure lying unconscious for up to half an hour. They should then be placed back in the plastic tube with the proper food, air, and humidity.

A student is looking for unfertilized female flies. There is another type that flies according to certain characteristics. Curved wings in one pile, bulging eyes in another. The characteristics reveal the genetic changes that the flies have undergone.

There are banana flies in Bergen New experimental animal. But banana flies have served science for more than a hundred years. With honor.

Banana flies have shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology six times. The first time was in 1933 when American researcher Thomas Morgan used the banana fly to study the role that genes and chromosomes play in heredity.

Cary Espolin-Fladmark looks to increase the use of zebrafish in research, and Fargel O'Farrell talks about banana flies.

Since then, the Nobel Prize has been awarded for studies of the banana fly fly radiation radiation Hermann Müller won the Nobel Prize for proving that radiation causes mutations and damages genetic material.(1946), Early Development Fetal lifeFetal lifeShow Edward B. Lewis, Christian Nüsslein-Volhard, and Eric F. Weishaus, an American and a German, explored how genes control the development of embryos. (1995), sense of smellsense of smellAmericans Richard Axel and Linda B. Buck received the award for the discovery of olfactory receptors and the organization of the olfactory system. (2004), immune system immune system American Bruce Beutler and Frenchman Jules A. won. Hoffman Prize for their discoveries about activation of innate immunity. (2011) The connection between light and… Sleep pattern Sleep patternAmerican Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael W. Young received the award for their research into the genes that control the biological clock in banana flies. . (2017)

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Banana flies work together.

According to O'Farrell, the use of banana flies has increased. At least in basic research.

– It should be used more. They are easy to handle, cheap to operate, reproduce quickly, and you don't have to think about caring for the animals, he says, pausing and shaking his head:

-I don't want to work with large animals.

O'Farrell once turned down a job in which he had to break the backs of lab rats to test different treatments for spinal cord injuries.

A friend researched addiction using dogs. O'Farrell shuddered when he thought of what was involved.

He killed a beagle every week for two years. He says: I can't do that.

-But we're still good friends.

Banana flies are easy to handle, cheap to operate, and reproduce quickly.  All of this makes flies a perfect fit, O'Farrell believes.

The banana fly is small in sizeBut he has character, O'Farrell believes. The female fly will not mate until the male fly caresses her with song, kiss, and dance. When two males court the same female, it usually ends in a fight.

Mating takes a long time, because the female stores sperm inside her abdomen, which is filled with mature eggs that will mature soon. In the week following mating, she releases one fertilized egg at a time. 500 in total.

Ten days later, the eggs hatch into new adult flies that mate again and lay eggs.

No wonder banana flies in the house are so difficult to get rid of.

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In the last month of a female fly's life, she finishes laying eggs. The aging fly has become fatter. In nature, they are quickly eaten by small birds or bats.

At O'Farrell, she can enjoy aging in a plastic tube with regular servings of mashed potatoes, starch, dry yeast and sugar.

Goron Elise Furey implants a gene into newly hatched fish eggs.

Two floors below Fly lab Jorunn Elise Førre is in the process of giving zebrafish new light-up eyes.

With a steady hand, she inserts a thin needle through the egg of the newly hatched fish, into the cell's nucleus, and delivers the gene that makes the fluorescent protein to the cells in the retina.

Professor Kari Espolin-Fladmark is proud of Fauré, who has just received training in this:

– She has the courage necessary for such work.

The thin needle passes through the yolk sac and directly into the nucleus of the fish egg cell.  The gene must be in place before the egg divides.

The luminous cells are supposed to make it easier to detect what is happening in the retina in the first stage of Parkinson's disease.

We know that fish develop visual disturbances and we see that they become more anxious. “We now want to get closer to understanding the mechanism,” says Fladmark.

The hope is that these experiments with fish will provide the basis for drugs that prevent Parkinson's disease, not just relieve symptoms.

Like the banana fly, the zebrafish is a model organism. That is, scientists use it to understand biological phenomena. Yeast cells and roundworms are also used for this purpose, but at the University of Bergen it's all about flies and fish.

These zebrafish have hereditary diabetes.  Not all medical researchers have discovered the potential of these fish, says Kari Espolen-Fladmark.

Zebrafish is an ornamental fish. In the laboratory, they swim in temperate tropical waters.

Small carp has a number of advantages as an experimental animal. They occupy little space, tolerate living in captivity well, and produce offspring after two to three months. Then it spawns often and willingly.

When the fish is young, it is completely transparent, making it easy to study how the organs develop.

Unlike banana flies, zebrafish are subject to animal welfare regulations. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority must approve all experiments, and sometimes they come to inspect the fish laboratory.

Poster on the door of the zebrafish laboratory at the High Technology Center.

Fladmark has worked with zebrafish for more than ten years.

– Before that, biologists learned how to identify fish. We can now leverage that knowledge to research diseases.

90 percent of human disease genes are also found in young zebrafish.

On the shelf are glass jars containing fish with hereditary diabetes.

In another swim fish that is used to test drugs against leukemia.

Some medical researchers have used zebrafish, but not everyone has been able to discover the potential of these fish, she says.

Fladmark's next project is to give fish oil to zebrafish that have been genetically modified to develop Alzheimer's disease.

If it works for them, it might work for humans, too.

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Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

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