Flies, like humans, can show signs of brain degeneration as they reach old age. Affected insects possess gene mutations, which lead to shaking and difficulty walking as brain function is lost. By looking for early warning signs in the brains of these insects, scientists hope to improve early detection of human neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s. However, flies’ brains are delicate, and the traditional way of imaging them – preparing thin slices of the organ to view under a microscope – is laborious and requires great precision. Scientists have found a neat way to overcome this. By simply bleaching the fly’s dark pigmentation they can take images through the intact head (shown above) to the brain underneath.
Written by Manisha Lalloo
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.