Fruit Flies Now Can Feed On Milkweed, Thanks to the CRISPR Gene Editing

by Ernest Thomas
Fruit-Flies Now Can Feed On Milkweed, Thanks to the CRISPR Gene Editing

Researchers have used the CRISPR gene-editing methodology to re-design fruit flies who are resistant to poisonous plants. Naturally, the fruit fly dies if it eats milkweed. It is a common plant filled with sticky sap. Mostly hungry frogs and birds feed on it. Some insects, including monarch butterflies, have an in-built ability to feed on toxic milkweed and digest it. Even more, caterpillars and butterflies store these toxins to obstruct predators. Now scientists have managed to overcome the problem. Researchers from the University of California, Berkley have designed a new fruit fly having a life-changing advantage they never had before. Even more, they have altered a single gene, which has resulted in toxic-resistant fruit flies. Now the latest flies have the potential to efficiently eat poison and keep it in their bodies as a safety tool.

Prof. Noah Whiteman from UC Berkley has led the study, which also includes his colleagues. Even more, they have described their research in the journal Nature on Oct. 2. It is a first-ever effort in which researchers have designed an animal to live in an entirely different environment. Besides, these tiny flies can survive with distinct food and predators. The team has achieved victory by making three CRISPR alterations in one gene. They have made the hereditary changes similar to the genes of monarch butterflies.

To gain the feat, scientists have first noticed genes of butterfly which enable them to much on milkweed. After that, the team has attempted to recreate those particular mutations in the fruit flies. In the end, they had discovered a single gene liable. They have overcome the problem by replacing three nucleotides in that gene to offer toxic-resistance to flies. The gene-edited fruit fly maggots now have the potential to grow by eating milkweed and store those harmful elements in their bodies. The super-power remained in the fly even after they became adult flies. Now fruit flies have a thousand times more powerful protection, against milkweed toxin, than that of wild fruit flies.

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