Fruit Flies are helpful

fruit fly

Most people see species of flies, including the fruit fly, as a pest and a nucance. However, those who are looking to detect drugs and explosives may have found a powerful ally with the fruit fly, or more specifically, its nose. According to new research from Professor Thomas Nowotny at the University of Sussex, the “noses”, or sense of smell, of fruit flies can identify odors from drugs and explosive substances almost as much as they can sniff out wine odors. Wine odors are a natural attractant to the insects, as it smells like their favorite food, fermenting fruit. The study is another step forward in the development of electronic, or e, noses, that will be able to replicate the sensitive smell of animals. Professor Nowotny and his team saw how 20 different receptor neurons in fruit flies responded to chemical sets related to wine(the “wine” set), and a set related to drugs and explosive materials(the “industrial” set). Using a computer program, the team was able to see which smells gave out the strongest reactions in the flies. In the wine set, 29 of the 36 chemical compounds gave responses, as compared to 21 of the 35 for the industrial set. The long-term goal for the team is to re-create animals’ noses for applications such as sniffing out drugs and explosives. Re-creating the entire nose would be difficult, according to Nowotny. So the goal must be to find the 5 or 10 receptors that work the most efficently and try and re-create them. The fruit fly was a tremendous help to the team as far as advancing research in finding out which receptors can be used to sniff out drugs and explosives the best. In conclusion, the next time you think of a fruit fly as just a pest, think about the thousands of lives it could be helping to save through its incredible sense of smell.



2 thoughts on “Fruit Flies are helpful

  1. Weng Ee Then

    I agree with the previous comment, I too would like to know exactly how the process works. Perhaps they gather around specific drugs and have an increase in activity around them? It seems there is so much we can learn from the species around us and this could possibly help those people with olfactory dysfunctions. Also are there specific drugs they are more inclined to smelling? This blog leaves me with so many questions and really got me thinking, thanks!

  2. Alyssa Marie Gregory

    Wow nice blog! While I was informed on the topic I was a bit confused when presented with the conclusion. While what the flies can do is extremely impressive how exactly will they be able to sniff out explosives and inform a human about it? It seems as though their practice is not as helpful as we wish. As you said the overall goal is to make animals noses effective enough to sniff out explosives. I wish there were a study explaining the process of how exactly that process will work. As we know dogs can sniff out drugs and inform a human by barking or other things but how would a fly do this? Very tricky. Science today is so unique that they might actually find a way for this to make sense. Believe it or not your topic led me to think more about the fruit flies as a species. While Andrew taught us a lot in class about how the male fruit fly is toxic to the femals, you taught me they have positive attributes as well. I then took a look online for other positives and I read that these flies can also smell cancer tumors in humans. This article shows that not only can their smelling sense detect explosives but they can detect tumors as well. This further brings about your argument. Take a look at this article that gets a bit more into depth.

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