"We're really interested in why the fly is dying, and this is potentially a good inroad to being able to study that," he said.
Oxidation the chemical process behind rust and food spoilage takes place constantly in the body as a byproduct of metabolism.
"Burning that fuel to produce energy is toxic," Tower said.
The real-time methods developed by Tower's group painted the poignant picture, even if only for flies, of an animal's last attempt to fight off death.
Other animals soon will be studied the same way, Grover predicted.
"The beauty of it is now, if GFP can be linked to any gene you could track it over time, and you could look at the expression of that gene. It's much easier than looking at it through the microscope, having a grad student sit there and take pictures every few hours and look at the (gene) expression change. This is just running on its own," he said.
It was Grover's thesis adviser Simon Tavare, a professor of molecular and computational biology at USC and faculty member at Cambridge, who suggested how to track flies in three dimensions.
"After that we started to think about, 'Can we look at the expression of certain genes over time, as they're moving?' " Grover recalled.
"That would be really interesting."
Even more interesting, for everyday life, would be a mosquito zapper guided by the tracking system an application that Grover and Tower say just might be feasible.
|Contact: Carl Marziali|
University of Southern California