Saturday, August 13, 2005

Flies Off The Wall

Ain't science wonderful!?

Imagine being able to party all night long without getting drunk! Imagine waking up after a night of partying without a hangover!

Don't laugh, it might not be so far-fetched. It could happen someday, and you can thank the common fruit fly! Nick-named the "hangover gene," researchers have discovered the gene in an unusual study of drunken fruit flies. The gene helps build a tolerance to booze. The scientists suspect that similar version functions in humans as well.

In the journal, Nature, scientists reported the have uncorked a new understanding of alcoholic dependence. Because of the gene, greater amounts of alcohol are needed before intoxication can take effect. Apparently the gene also aids in building up an intolerance to alcohol.

Henrike Scholz, a behavioral geneticist at the University of California at San Francisco as well as the University of Wurzburg in germany, headed up the study. "The first beer makes you really drunk," he said. "The next time in the same pub with your friends, you might drink two beers to achieve the same effect."

The hangover gene, which is also involved in responding to stress, appears to start ramping up tolerance after the initial exposure to alcohol, the researchers found. They suspect t hat a mutant form of the gene might explain how those with a low tolerance can generally feel tipsy after just one drink, while others can consume more.

And just how did those fruit flies get drunk enough to be studied? (Maybe they extended happy hour?) The scientists pumped ethanol vapor into their cages. They then gauged how straight they flew.

When they weren't looking, I slipped into their lab. With the aid of a magnifying glass I studied those little buggers. It was like a busy freeway in their cages. I noticed curious activity in one cage in particular. A fruit fly officer on a motorcycle had pulled over a couple of speeders. I thought it was a bit curious that scientists could simply look into the cages and to be able to confirm that they were drunk. They had to have a few flies on the payroll. Yup, the cop flies were on the take.

Sure enough, there was the cop fly administering a breathalizer test on one of the speeders on the spot. My questions were answered. The cops were supplying the results of the breathalizer tests to the scientists! Of course there was way that the flies are going to get any credit for their assistance. Then again, what could a fruit fly hope to do with a Nobel Prize anyway?

Ain't science wonderful?


1 comment:

Sam said...

This is an interesting topic; next they'll have to find a cure for hangovers. You may be interested in my article on this topic and others at