A virtual visit to the fly facility

Why bother with fruit fly research?

Did you know that the biology of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is the best understood of all organisms on this planet? Did you know that flies were the first ever organism to reach space in a rocket and return safely? Did you know that research on the fly started over a century ago, and that still today about 15,000 people worldwide use the fruit fly Drosophila for their research? Did you know that 10 researchers were awarded the Nobel Prize for work on Drosophila because it led to important scientific breakthroughs?

To understand how Drosophila came into research and how research in flies can lead to important new understanding, please watch these two entertaining movies:

To get an impression of the wide range of medically relevant fly research

  • browse through our list of lay articles  which provide examples of cancer studies, behavioural science, investigations of brain function and disorders, sleep research,  studies of alcohol addiction or of how diet impacts on health and ageing – and further topics.
  • have a look at the article “Fruit flies in biological research” in the school journal Biological Sciences Reviews, which explains how researchers at the University of Manchester use flies to understand the loss of nerves during ageing or neurodegenerative disease.

What happens in the fly laboratory?

Take a virtual tour through our fly laboratory, the Manchester Fly Facility:

Flies are kept in vials (A) that are stored in incubators (B), and they can be easily selected under a dissecting microscope (C-E):

Here is how we tip flies from old vials on new vials:

Here is how flies develop from egg lay to eclosion of the next generation:

Here you can see how a fly maggot crawls: the green muscles contract in waves that run from the back to the front:

Here you can see how these contraction waves are coordinated from the nervous system: using modern genetic tools you can see how waves of activity run through the CNS primarily from back to front, instructing muscles to contract in the same pattern:

If you want to see how the maggots are prepared for this, watch this movie:

Some experiments that even you could do

A simple experiment illustrating how poisonous alcohol is, and illustrating our body’s defense mechanisms (for more details and how to perform this experiment see here):

A simple experiment showing seizure flies which are used to study mechanisms and treatments of epilepsy (for more details and how to perform this experiment see here):

Perform a simple genetics experiment (click to download the PowerPoint and accompanying Activity Sheet)

Some fun activity!

For further Drosophila-related movies click here – and if you want to have some fun, play the Drosophila video game:

Click image to play!