Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) are attractive model organisms. Scientists are enamoured by their transparent embryos, rapidly hatching eggs and their genetic similarity to mammals. Pictured is a microscopic section from a fruit fly embryo. Researchers have fluorescently tagged a protein called HOW to find out where it ends up when the insect muscles develop. They believe that HOW protein helps to maintain the circular arrangement of cells (along the top and bottom of the image) which become the fly’s abdominal muscles, as well as those that develop into heart (the chain of cells running left to right along the middle). The most similar protein in mammals (Quaking) helps insulate nerves as they grow. Reduced in sufferers of schizophrenia, researchers hope that by studying the fly protein they will better understand how Quaking works in humans. Understanding how schizophrenia develops has implications for the treatment of this traumatic illness.
Written by Mary-Clare Hallsworth
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