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Fun Science Friday – Using the Force to Detect Cancer…. Sorta

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish! What does that have to do with this week’s Southern Fried Science…. nothing! But that quote always makes me laugh.

This week we bring you another crazy break through in science that involves fruit flies and cancer. No, fruit flies do not cause cancer… that we know of. I am probably a little late on this, but the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is the newest weapon in the fight against cancer. Yes you heard that right, man has turned one of the more annoying creatures into something useful! Useful for humans that is. ;)

Side view of a  a 0.1 x 0.03 inch (2.5 x 0.8 mm) small male fruit fly. Credit: André Karwath

Side view of a a 0.1 x 0.03 inch (2.5 x 0.8 mm) small male fruit fly.
Credit: André Karwath

Think of them as the Death Star… no wait, think of these fruit flies as Darth Vader using the force to detect the presence of Obi Wan Kenobi on the Death Star in Episode IV (now I’m just getting off-track).

Led by Dr. Giovanni Galizia a team of researchers from the University of Konstanz (in Germany) discovered that these tiny flying insects have the ability to not just detect diseased cells, but different strains of cancer cells. Capitalizing on this ability, Dr. Galizia and his team genetically modified the antenna of the fruit flies to glow whenever cancer cells were detected. Pretty cool!

Now when you leave your fruit laying out on your counter for too many days, in addition to having to deal with the multitude of fruit flies that will seemingly miraculously appear from nowhere, you might also achieve early cancer detection! Woot! :p

You can read the original study in the journal Nature.