British Scientists to Use Fruit Flies in Autism Treatment Tests

British Scientists to Use Fruit Flies in Autism Treatment Tests

Friday, 14 December, 2018 - 06:45
A handout photo shows a Queensland fruit fly on a leaf, March 21, 2014. (CSIRO photo)
Cairo - Hazem Badr
US and British researchers suggested that the fruit fly would be an effective tool to experiment new treatments for one of the most notable symptoms of Autism: Sensory disturbances like sensitivity to bright lights and loud sounds.

In the study published on Wednesday in the Royal Society Publishing journal, researchers from the University of York and the University of Stanford, found that the brain's responses to the sensory disturbances in Autism patients change between children and adults. The differences observed mimicked those seen in a strain of fruit flies that had a genetic change associated with autism.

To investigate this, the researchers asked both children and adults with autism to look at specific not harmful patterns of disturbing stimulants on a computer screen, like a remarkable change in its brightness. Then, they measured the way that neurons in the participant's brain responded using an electroencephalogram (EEG), which detects electrical activity in the brain.

Dr. Daniel Baker, from University of York's Department of Psychology, said in a report he wrote on the university website in correspondence with the research publication: "In adults with autism, and in our mature mutant flies, we found a reduction in brain activity at this higher frequency. In children, and in juvenile flies, responses were lower at both frequencies."

Baker explained that the new findings helped scientists understand the mechanisms involved in how sensory perception is affected in autism and whether the difference in brain responses between adults and children has any impact on how they perceive visual or other sensory stimuli.

For his part, Dr. Chris Elliott, from the University of York's Department of Biology, and co-author of the study, said: "We now have a clearer picture of one sensory difference and have a genetic fly model that reflects this same difference," adding that "It is possible that in future the fruit fly model could be used to test potential treatments to alleviate some of the sensory difficulties experienced by people with autism."

This study highlights a new role for the fruit fly in the field of scientific research.

From 1946 till 2018, researches whose authors got Nobel Prizes proved that 75 percent of pathogens affecting humans have matches that can be identified in fruit flies, which made this insect an important tool in beneficial researches.

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