Model organisms such as yeast, bacteria, the mouse and the fruit fly are used by researchers to study biological systems. The genomes of these organisms have been mapped and sequenced.
The fruit fly is easy to maintain, has large numbers of offspring, and grows quickly. The fruit fly shares with humans a number of so-called “master,” or homeotic, genes.
Model organisms share with humans many key biochemical and physiological functions that have been conserved (maintained) by evolution.
Doctor Josh Dubnau explains that model systems are particular species of animals that substitute for humans or other animals. For genetic and historic reasons, the fruit fly is a commonly used model.
Students work through a series of experiments that investigate the use of model organisms in the search for a better understanding of the genes that influence memory formation.
A human is a complicated organism, and it is considered unethical to do many kinds of experiments on human subjects. For these reasons, biologists often use simpler “model” organisms that are easy to keep and manipulate in the laboratory.
Many of the genes important for memory in flies are probably also important for memory in other animals, even humans. Doctor Josh Dubnau explains how the T-maze is used to test memory in flies.
Mice are small, easy to keep, and complete a generation in only ten weeks. They are also rather closely related to human beings.
Professor Ron Davis discusses the attributes that make the fruit fly a good model for studying memory in humans.
Professor David Van Vactor discusses the properties that make the fruit fly (drosophila) a powerful model system.