Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Frozen Fruit Flies

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Frozen Fruit Flies

Article excerpt

Using a microscope the size of a football field, researchers from The University of Western Ontario are studying why some insects can survive freezing, while others cannot. Why is this important? Because the common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) is one bug that cannot survive freezing--and the little creature just so happens to share much of the same genetic makeup as humans. (About 75% of known human disease genes have a recognizable match in the genetic code of fruit flies.)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Why the large microscope? "It's the only one in the world that's set up for this kind of imaging on insects," says lead researcher Brent Sinclair of his team's use of the Advanced Photon Source (APS), located near Chicago, Illinois. The APS generates high-energy x-rays that allow Sinclair and his colleagues to film the formation and spread of ice in real time as the maggots freeze.

An assistant professor in the university's Department of Biology, Sinclair explains that the physical processes of ice formation seem to be consistent among species that do and do not survive freezing. …

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