Why fly?

Alongside the other two websites of the Manchester Fly Facility, i.e. droso4research (Drosophila research support & genetics training) and droso4schools (Drosophila school outreach), this droso4public site is dedicated to Drosophila advocacy and public outreach. Its overarching aim is to provide a one-stop-shop for any kind of information or resources that can be used to communicate the importance of fly research to non-specialist audiences. Although many of us are actively contributing already, we spread our activities thin if we do not share them efficiently. Sharing overcomes the need of having to re-invent the wheel; it provides unique opportunities to further improve the quality and effectiveness of existing resources; it strengthens fly advocacy/outreach by turning it into a more powerful community effort. Please, contribute and help to improve the common cause; if you notice broken links, want to see information added or corrected, want to share new or improved versions of resources, have editorial suggestions or want to become a site editor etc., don’t hesitate to contact us.
Quick access: Our mission | Our movies

Background

Am not I A fly like thee?
Or art not thou A man like me?

(from “The Fly” by W. Blake, 1794)

Invertebrate model organisms such as the fruit fly Drosophila are essential pillars in the process of scientific discovery. For over 100 years, Drosophila has been spearheading biological research with great success. It has been contributing countless genes, mechanisms, processes and fundamental concepts, many of them evolutionary conserved and fuelling research in higher animals – ultimately, also to understand and cure diseases.

Related genes of flies and humans link to related diseases (left: loss of retina/eye upon loss of Pax6; right: upregulation of hedgehog in the anterior limb causes duplications)

Many of our organs have common origins and serve the same purposes (see details here). They are often inscribed by the same genes. Deciphering the principal functions of these genes can be done in the fly. Applying this knowledge from Drosophila to human disease is a powerful, much used and proven strategy to inspire and accelerate related research in higher animals and humans – often referred to as using the fly as a “test tube” for research on mammals or disease. For more explicit explanations, please, see the “Why Fly?” page on our droso4schools website and this recent blog post.

Did you know that…

  • …Drosophila is the insect behind 10 Nobel laureates in Physiology or MEDICINE?
  • …about 75% of human disease genes have a recognisable match in fruit flies?
  • …the equivalent of the population of London can be kept on a few trays in the laboratory?
  • …flies become grandparents in only 3-4 weeks, ideal to draw their family trees in no time?
  • …flies have a brain, learn & can be made smarter?
  • …the first learning genes were discovered in flies and do just the same in humans?
  • …flies can get drunk and addicted to alcohol? They are strong in addiction research!
  • …flies have enormously advanced our understanding of cancer, epilepsy & Alzheimer’s?
  • …flies can be used to find future medicines?
  • …flies are used to study sleep? Coffee keeps them awake, and old flies sleep less!
  • …flies have stem cells and taught us a lot about their regulation?
  • …flies lead the way in dietary research, instructing us what to eat for healthy ageing?
  • …flies live only weeks, but age as we do? Ageing research is fast in flies!
  • …flies are used to study the biology of aggression?
  • …flies get jet lag? The first “jet lag genes” were found in flies, and we have them too!
  • …flies in the Mediterranean take a siesta but not in the north? The “jet lag” genes are responsible for this.
  • …flies reached the US in the 19th century – shortly before they started their research career in New York?
  • …flies were the first ever organisms that reached space in 1947 and returned safely? — [LINK1] [LINK2]
  • …time flies like an arrow, and fruit flies like a banana.

…for almost every organ in humans there is a match in flies, and common genes regulate their development, organisation and function (see our Organs page).

Our Vision, Mission, Purpose

The Manchester Fly Facility promotes wider awareness of Drosophila research and its importance for the advance of biomedical science. For this, the Manchester Fly Facility drives 6 complementary strands of science communication (details in Patel & Prokop, 17 ; Patel & Prokop, 18):

  1. Drosophila genetics training for university students and researchers
  2. exhibitions on science fairs
  3. development of science fairs
  4. production of educational videos
  5. working with schools and teachers, including the droso4schools initiative
  6. publication and marketing of resources and strategies to various audiences including teachers and schools, as well as the fly community

All these approaches encompass the development of strategies and resources, and these are freely shared and made available online (see info on these pages). It is our vision and hope that this initiative will inspire more members of our community to participate in the communication of fly research and share their strategies and resources. Through this, we hope to turn this endeavour into a joint effort and build an efficient network of science communication which will drive Drosophila advocacy to momentum and impact. Only by achieving such collaboration will we eventually be able to reach policy and decision makers in order to (1) consolidate Drosophila research in grant funding portfolios, (2) recognise the importance of fundamental research and (3) improve biology education in schools and universities.

If you work with flies and would like to promote the network idea, please download the advocacy slides, and see our regularly updated impact document for progress made.

The Drosophila phenomenon explained

  • Brookes, M. (2001/2002). “Fly: The Unsung Hero of Twentieth-Century Science.” Ecco/Phoenix, — [LINK]
  • Held Jr., L. I. H. (2017). “Deep homology? Uncanny similarities of humans and flies uncovered by evo-devo.” Cambridge University Press, Cambridge — [LINK]
  • Kohler, R. E. (1994). “Lords of the fly. Drosophila genetics and the experimental life.” The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, London — [LINK]
  • Lawrence, P. (1992). “The making of a fly: the genetics of animal design.” Blackwell Science, Oxford — [LINK]
  • Prokop, A. (2016). Fruit flies in biological research. Biological Sciences Review 28, 10-14 — [LINK]
  • Prokop, A. (2018). Why funding fruit fly research is important for the biomedical sciences. Open Access Government 20, 198-201 — [LINK and as GSA blog]
  • Mohr, S. E. (2018). “First in fly – Drosophila research and biological discovery.” Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA and London, UK — [LINK]
  • Weiner, J. (1999). “Time, Love, Memory : A Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origins of Behavior.” Vintage Books, Random House Inc., New York — [LINK]

Further info resources can be found here.

Interested in working in schools?

We offer internships “Introducing the fruit fly Drosophila as a modern teaching tool” for students interested in working in schools. The aim is to develop curriculum-relevant lessons involving the use of Drosophila and is based on a clear rationale. In 2015, we ran a highly successful 3 month PIPS placement scheme for 2 BBSRC DTP students which resulted in a number of free-to-download school lessons, as is explained in more detail on our dedicated droso4school website. If you want to apply for the 2015/16 period, please, feel free to contact us.

See our educational movies

 

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