Today I thought I would give you all an update on where my work with the flies is up to. In my last fly post (https://harperphd.com/the-importance-of-the-fruit-fly/) I mentioned that I would be using the humble fruit fly as a side project to my research and that I needed to have a run-through of my methods before I could start carrying out any experiments to check that everything would work fine. Specifically, I needed to carry out a trial experiment to move eggs from my fruit flies into new bottles or vials so that I could track them as they developed into larvae.
I did my trial run last week by collecting the flies that I wanted to lay eggs into one bottle and then I introduced a small dish of food to them. The females like to lay eggs in food so that their offspring have plenty enough to see them through development into an adult fly. Once the females had checked that the food was suitable, they laid their eggs onto the surface. When enough eggs had been laid, I removed the dish and replaced it with another fresh one for the females to continue to lay more. After I had collected enough dishes of eggs I placed them all into an incubator for them to develop into the larvae that I need. As I’ve said before, the purpose of this trial-run was to check that the methods I will use will work for my main experiment before I try to collect any proper data. And after this first run-through I think I’m ready to start my big experiment with just a few tweaks here and there. Now all I need to do is make sure that I have enough flies ready to start after Easter and so I am moving the flies to new food regularly to expand my stocks.
My main experiment will look at exposing the larvae that I collect to radiation at different times of day (similar to the radiation that cancer patients would experience during their radiotherapy) and measuring how this exposure affects the flies’ abilities to repair the damage in their tissues. Even though any data I collect from my fly experiments might not tell us the same things in humans, the genes controlling biological clocks in flies and humans are very similar. So it can at least provide us with some clues to how the timing of radiotherapy might affect a patient’s response.
In the near future I’ll be carrying out really similar experiments on human cells and on samples collected from patients too, allowing me to compare my data from both flies and humans. Hopefully it will help me to try and piece together the puzzle of why some people might respond better to radiotherapy than others depending on the time of day…