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.
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.