Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Space Travel News .

Fruit Flies on the ISS
by Dr. Tony Phillips for NASA Science News
Washington DC (SPX) Jul 15, 2014

A new ScienceCast video considers the fruit fly as astronaut: Drosophila melanogaster could help NASA travel deeper into space than ever before.

Fruit flies are bug eyed and spindly, they love rotten bananas, and, following orders from their pin-sized brains, they can lay hundreds of eggs every day. We have a lot in common.

Genetically speaking, people and fruit flies are surprisingly alike, explains biologist Sharmila Bhattacharya of NASA's Ames Research Center. "About 77% of known human disease genes have a recognizable match in the genetic code of fruit flies, and 50% of fly protein sequences have mammalian analogues."

That's why fruit flies, known to scientists as Drosophila melanogaster, are commonplace in genetic research labs. They can be good substitutes for people. They reproduce quickly, so that many generations can be studied in a short time, and their genome has been completely mapped. Drosophila is being used as a genetic model for several human diseases including Parkinson's and Huntington's.

They're about to become genetic models for astronauts. "We are sending fruit flies to the International Space Station," says Bhattacharya. "They will orbit Earth alongside astronauts, helping us explore the effects of long-term space flight on human beings."

The flies will be living in a habitat developed at Ames called the "Fruit Fly Lab." Inside, they will lead the hurried lives of fruit flies--living, dying, reproducing, and experiencing the same space radiation and microgravity as their human counterparts. Cameras will record the behavior and appearance of these miniature astronauts; and at intervals some of them will be frozen and returned to Earth for analysis.

This research was recommended by the National Research Council itself. In a recent Decadal Survey, the council noted that "model systems offer increasingly valuable insights into basic biology." And they called for "an organized effort to identify common changes in gene expression [among] key model systems in space."

"The Fruit Fly Lab will allow us to look into a variety of questions such as the effect of space flight on aging, cardiovascular fitness, sleep, stress and much more," she says.

Bhattacharya's personal interest is the immune system. It has long been known that astronauts' ability to resist disease is weakened in space. Turns out, the same thing happens to fruit flies. "We sent Drosophila to Earth orbit onboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 2006, and they all experienced a decrement in immune function," says Bhattacharya.

The shuttle flight was relatively brief, only 13 days, but astronauts traveling to Mars and other distant places will be in space much longer. A fruit fly habitat permanently installed on the ISS allows researchers to conduct studies directly relevant to such long-duration space flight.

Immune system studies of human astronauts can be tricky because every astronaut has his or her own idiosyncratic genetic code. "What's nice about the flies we send up is that they are all genetically identical," notes Bhattacharya. "We can do much better science with such a population."

Flies onboard the space station will also have their own "carnival ride." A 1-g centrifuge will subject Drosophila to the equivalent of Earth-gravity, allowing researchers for the first time to unravel the competing influences of radiation and gravity. "This is cutting-edge research," she says, clearly enthusiastic about this new device.

The Fruit Fly Lab is scheduled to launch in late summer 2014 onboard a Space-X rocket.

Maybe they should pack some bananas, too. Rotten, if you please.


Related Links
Ames Research Center
Station at NASA
Station and More at Roscosmos
S.P. Korolev RSC Energia
Watch NASA TV via Space.TV
Space Station News at Space-Travel.Com

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Space junk damages ISS US segment
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Jul 08, 2014
Space debris has damaged a cooling system radiator of the International Space Station US, the NASA website said. Images of the ISS surface captured by external cameras were being analyzed and there was no leak from the cooling system. The NASA delegation to the Russian Mission Control Center has made no comment on the situation. The ISS is manned by Russia's Alexander Skvortsov, Oleg ... read more

Orbital launches cargo ship to space station

Arianespace launches O3b Networks via Soyuz rocket

SSTL announces the successful launch of UK TechDemoSat-1

O3b satellites integrated on Arianespace Soyuz for July 10 launch

Forces of Martian Nature

NASA Spacecraft Observes Further Evidence of Dry Ice Gullies on Mars

Rover Uses Arm to Study Several Rocks and Takes Panoramic Images

ADS complete heat shields for 2016 ExoMars mission

Landsat Looks to the Moon

Sky-gazers can expect one 'Supermoon' per month for the next three months

NASA LRO's Moon As Art Collection Is Revealed

Solar photons drive water off the moon

Annual Checkout Makes for Great Pluto Preparation

What If Voyager Had Explored Pluto?

The PI's Perspective - Childhood's End

Final Pre-Pluto Annual Checkout Begins

Newfound Frozen World Orbits in Binary Star System

Discovery expands search for Earth-like planets

Astronomers discover most Earth-like of all exoplanets

Mega-Earth in Draco Smashes Notions of Planetary Formation

First Angara Test Launch Successful

NASA and Boeing finalize $2.8 million deal to build super powerful rocket

Russia to make fresh attempt to launch new rocket

Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes J-2X Testing

Chinese moon rover designer shooting for Mars

Yutu designer's bittersweet

Are China's Astronauts Moonbound

Chinese scientists prepare for lunar base life support system

Burning down to Rosetta comet rendezvous

Deep in the main asteroid belt

Comet Pan-STARRS Marches Across the Sky

Rosetta's comet 'sweats' two glasses of water a second

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.