CAMDEN When kitchens become infiltrated with fruit flies, especially during the dog days of summer, homeowners might wish that the flying pests would just turn to ice.
The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster does boast a powerful genetic system making it an ideal organism to test a cool new discovery: how an enzyme regulates body energy levels. Shutting off this molecular thermostat could result in a newfound cold tolerance that has multiple applications, including extending the 24-hour window donated organs now have for optimum use.
Thanks to a $385,419 grant from the National Institute of Health, a team of RutgersCamden biologists is working to engineer cold tolerant fruit flies and ultimately human cells within the next three years.
This research breakthrough can be credited to Daniel Shain, a professor of biology at RutgersCamden, who has traveled the globe seeking knowledge on how ice worms don't just survive in glaciers, but thrive. When Shain identified a key enzyme that helps ice worms do this AMP phosphatase he tapped Nir Yakoby, an expert Drosophila geneticist and assistant professor of biology at RutgersCamden, to create this cold-tolerant fruit fly.
"The goal is to make human cells survive on ice. Twenty-four hours on ice is pushing it and many people die waiting," says Shain, who is scheduled to travel to Tibet next year to observe ice worms in the vicinity. "We're lucky to have an expert Drosophila geneticist on campus to test this genetic switch."
Not just the ice worm lives on ice; the RutgersCamden research team, which includes undergraduate and graduate students, observed how other organisms, like bacteria, fungi, and algae, also are breaking through their internal thermostats.
"Shain accomplished this switch in mono-cell organisms and now we are going further up into the evolutionary tree to a more complex species," offers Yakoby, who joined the RutgersCamden faculty last year a
|Contact: Cathy Donovan|