These strange and delicate strands are muscle fibres from a fruit fly maggot’s heart. Viewed down a high-powered microscope, the two main muscle proteins – actin (green) and myosin (red) – are highlighted with fluorescent dyes. At this stage everything looks fine, but fruit flies with a fault in a gene called seizure (sei) have a nasty surprise in store once they turn into adult flies and grow older. Their muscle cells become disorganised and chaotic, and they don’t work properly – a problem that gets worse as they age. While the human version of sei seems to play a similar role in our hearts to its job in fruit flies – and also affects heart cell function when faulty – mistakes in the mouse version of the gene don’t have the same effect. This suggest that fruit flies may be a better model for studying some aspects of heart disease than our furry fellow mammals.
Written by Kat Arney
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