As soon as I joined the new lab, I was invited to attend the Portuguese Drosophila Meeting. The meeting was hold in Tomar, center of Portugal, and combined people from different institutes. The major goal of this meeting every year is gathering together the Portuguese scientific community that uses Drosophila melanogaster as a model system, and share expertise: from new tools to new methodologies.
The Portuguese Drosophila Meeting was casual with a good amount of time to socialize. The talks were as broad as you can imagine, from immunology, to developmental biology, population genetics, host-pathogen interaction, neuroscience and oncobiology.
As usual, in this kind of meetings, we have international speakers giving amazing talks. However, what catch up my attention was one of the speaker’s main message: keep spreading the word and show how powerful Drosophila model is. It’s incredible but true, Drosophila is getting forgotten. How many of the new raising scientists know that, for example, the Hippo signaling pathway was first discovered and characterized in flies? Drosophila is the most well understood model organism, studied for more than a century. Its genome is smaller, known since March 2000 and there are libraries of RNAi for all your favorite genes. Moreover, you can manipulate their growth rate by maintaining them in different temperatures (ranging between 18 ºC and 29 ºC). Did you ever try to mutate/insert a gene? In Drosophila is so much easier than mice (imagine an entire year reduced to one month, with amazing genetic tools to know if your gene was inserted or deleted!). And for the sceptics, the fruit fly and humans are not as distant as you can think! Many physiological, neurological and biological properties are maintained between mammals and fruit flies, with about 75 % of the genes that cause diseases in humans have functional homologs in Drosophila!
Finally, you can find more reasons why use the fly as a research model in: