The tiny fruit fly is a rock star in the scientific world. Six groups of scientists have received Nobel Prizes for research that used them to make important discoveries leading to groundbreaking insights into human biology.
Multiple reasons explain the fruit fly’s usefulness in the laboratory. It helps that they share 60% of human DNA. This doesn’t mean some Hollywood creature, half human, half fly, will ever buzz around the apples and bananas on your countertop. But that shared genetics makes them handy.
When the fruit fly speaks, scientists listen.
Their new message to researchers is that exposure to the blue light produced by things like smartphones, TVs and computer screens can impact cells and speed the aging process. A study in fruit flies shows that essential chemicals that cells need to thrive are altered when exposed to that blue glow.
Fruit flies and humans share the same cellular signaling chemicals, so this affect could be seen in us, too.
Investigators kept one group of fruit flies in total darkness for two weeks while exposing a second group to blue light for the same period of time.
Then measurements of critical metabolites were taken for all of them. Perhaps most notably, blue light appeared to lower the levels of a key molecule that helps neurons communicate with each other.
And when cells are operating at a suboptimal level, they tend to die, like a car engine low on oil eventually burns out. Scientists say more study is needed to see how blue light impacts humans.
Score another one for the fruit fly. Its brain is the thickness of two strands of hair. But when it comes to advancing science, it’s beating most of us big-brained amateurs, wings down.