The how and why of freezing the common fruit fly

Print

By Communications Staff
Thursday, December 17, 2009
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 of the bugs that cannot survive freezing and the little creature just so happens to share much of the same genetic makeup as humans, therefore finding a way to freeze them for research purposes is a top priority for geneticists the world over (about 75 per cent of known human disease genes have a recognizable match in the genetic code of fruit flies).
 
And 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 collaborators to film the formation and spread of ice in real time as the maggots freeze.

See video at here.

An assistant professor in Western’s Department of Biology, Sinclair explains that the physical processes of ice formation seem to be consistent among species that do and don’t survive freezing. However, it seems that the insects that survive freezing have some control over the process of ice formation. They freeze at consistently higher temperatures than those that don’t. 

Sinclair says this implies that the main adaptations required to survive freezing are at the cellular or biochemical level, rather than because of fundamental structural differences.

“We’re comparing Chymomyza amoena, an insect native to Ontario that survives freezing, with Drosophila melanogaster, because they’re very close relatives,” says Sinclair. “The idea is to find the magic bullet which allows some bugs to survive freezing and some don’t. That’s the goal here.”

The Western-led research was published this week in the journal, “PLoS ONE,” an inclusive, peer-reviewed, open-access resource from the Public Library of Science.

Read the published research here.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jeff Renaud, Senior Media Relations Officer, 519-661-2111, ext. 85165  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Media Relations team

Keith Marnoch
Director, Media Relations
519-661-2111 x85468
kmarnoch@uwo.ca

Jeff Renaud
Senior Media Relations Officer
519-661-2111, ext. 85165
jrenaud9@uwo.ca

Susanna Eayrs

Communications Officer
Law
519-661-2126
seayrs@uwo.ca

Kathy Wallis

Media Relations Officer
Medicine & Dentistry Robarts Research Institute
519-661-2111, ext. 81136
kathy.wallis@ schulich.uwo.ca

Douglas Keddy

Research Communications Manager
Research Western
519-661-2111, ext. 87485
dkeddy@uwo.ca

Ivan Langrish
Senior Manager, Media Strategy Richard Ivey School of Business
416-203-0664
ilangrish@ivey.uwo.ca

 

Subscribe to the RSS Feed

RSS Button Media Releases Feed
About this Feed
 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Western provides the best student experience among Canada's leading research-intensive universities.