Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Fruit Fly's Sweetheart
16 March 2013

Fruit Fly's Sweetheart

Fruit flies are so named because of their penchant for sweet tasty fruits, but even they shouldn’t go overboard with the sugar. Just like humans who overindulge their sweet tooth, fruit flies given a high-sugar diet develop heart problems – including weakened pump activity, irregular heartbeat, and accumulation of fibrous tissue – all of which can shorten lifespan. Although a fruit fly’s heart is just a simple tubular pump (seen running left to right across the centre of the picture), quite different to the four-chambered human heart, the high-sugar-induced defects are remarkably similar. For example, people with adult-onset diabetes – where blood sugar levels are too high – have a higher risk of weakened heart muscles and heart failure. By studying these teeny weeny insect hearts scientists can discover molecular pathways that might link blood sugar to heart defects in man.

Written by Ruth Williams

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