Addiction: Fruit Flies Create AA Group!

By chillinwill · Dec 19, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    Like humans, fruit flies that get intoxicated on alcohol can become addicted and keep drinking regardless of the consequences. (One addiction news digest headline called the critters "Buzzed Fruit Flies.")

    Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco indicate this phenomenon will allow us to better understand how alcoholism works, U.S. News and World Report concluded in a stunning article, "Fruit Flies Can Be Alcoholics Too."

    The scientists studied the behavior of Drosophila melanogaster who (or is it "that"?) were given the option of drinking alcohol. They found that the flies consumed food spiked with alcohol faster than plain food, and they wanted more alcohol over time.

    That's alcoholism all over! People just keep drinking like - well - fruit flies. But, wait a moment, don't some people, after they get drunk a few times, decide to cut back on their drinking or not drink at all? After all, I have heard people say, "I get silly if I have more than a glass of wine - so that's all I'll drink."

    I mean, don't human beings exercise some choices in line with their values? I know a lot of people who have quit smoking after being addicted. The reason they quit (or didn't start in the first place even if they were drawn to it) is because of, well, their values. They want to be healthy. They don't want people to think they are addicts. They don't want their kids imitating them in an addiction or, when pregnant, they don't want to pollute their babies.

    And how do fruit flies become alcoholics, really? I mean, the alcoholics I knew blacked out, sneaked drinks and hid bottles, ran out to convenience stores to get six packs in the middle of the night, and had promiscuous sex. Can the flies do that? (I know they have promiscuous sex, but don't they do that sober?)

    I had trouble in biology classes in high school and college because I asked all sorts of impertinent questions like these. Here I go again! Do fruit flies have similar kinds of feelings to humans about sex? (Are there slut fruit flies?) In terms of what might make them quit drinking, do they have similar feelings to us about pregnancy? Do they have pregnancy? Do they have intercourse or oral sex? Do they practice tantric sex? Hey, I'm getting way off topic.

    Let's focus for a moment on the other end of the process. Let's say the Drosophila malanogasters (is it too late for me to retake that biology final? - I'm feeling so knowledgeable) become chronic inebriates. After talking to their pastor or their uncle in Alcoholics Anonymous, do some decide to join AA? I mean, what the heck do they say at the beginning of the meeting - you know, the part where you are supposed to admit you are an alcoholic and you're powerless over alcohol?

    "I am powerless over alcohol-spiked fruit fly food." That just doesn't sound right. Maybe they can stick to the plain, "I am powerless over alcohol." That's better. But they can't talk, can they. Maybe they can dance that message out (or am I thinking of bees - did I mention my problems in biology class?). "I'm (two step) an alcoholic (dip) for life (twirl)." But, wait a second - don't fruit flies live only days? How will they do 30 meetings in 30 days?

    I can see we're going to have to go back to the laboratory on this one.

    Stanton Peele
    December 18, 2009
    Huffington Post

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  1. fuelBrain
    Very clever, that guy is a smartass, but not in an annoying way
  2. corvardus
    SWIM didn't particularly find that piece particularly enlightening trying to give particular emphasis on waste-of-time research. I thought the initial findings were fascinating implying that alcoholism functions on a more fundamental level than SWIM once thought.
  3. corvardus
    Fruit flies can be alcoholics too

    Guard the bourbon fruitcake: Fruit flies like a little booze in their food. And once they get a nip, they’re hooked, say scientists studying Drosophila melanogaster, the darling of genetic scientists around the world. The flies show evidence of alcohol addiction, including drinking despite dangerous consequences, a study appearing online December 10 in Current Biology reports.

    Studying a model of alcoholism in a simple organism like the fruit fly may lead to a better understanding of the disease in humans. The new research is “a big step forward,” says Zachary Rodd, a behavioral pharmacologist who studies rodent models of alcoholism at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. “It’s always good to have many models. Each model has its benefits and its limitations. Drosophila has a lot of positives behind it.”

    Earlier studies found that alcohol has profound physiological effects on fruit flies, but the new study is one of the first to offer flies the choice to drink. Anita Devineni and Ulrike Heberlein, both of the University of California, San Francisco, devised a fly-sized drinking device reminiscent of the water bottles in hamster cages. Flies held inside vials could sip from thin tubes holding either liquid food spiked with 15 percent ethanol or plain liquid food. The researchers measured the descent of the liquids inside each tube to get a readout of which food the flies preferred.

    Flies slurped down the booze-laden food much faster than the straight food, the researchers found. This alcohol preference became stronger over five days as the animals adjusted to the drinking. When Devineni and Heberlein varied the amount of alcohol in the food, they found that flies that had been drinking for only one to two days didn’t seem to like the strong stuff, but regular drinkers that had been consuming alcohol for four to five days did. These flies drank food that contained up to 25 percent alcohol.

    As the flies drank alcohol, Devineni observed drunken behavior such as hyperactivity and loss of coordination. The researchers were unable to get exact measurements of alcohol levels in individual flies because they’re so small. “I think they are intoxicated, but it’s unclear to what degree,” Devineni says.

    Fruit flies accustomed to alcohol continued to drink despite potential harm, the team found. When the researchers laced the booze-food mix with small amounts of the toxic chemical quinine, those flies continued to drink, even though fruit flies normally avoid the chemical. “I was actually pretty surprised when they continued to drink it,” Devineni says.

    In another test, flies were allowed to drink freely for five days, then were deprived of alcohol for either one or three days. After the dry period, the flies immediately returned to peak levels of drinking, a hallmark of relapse.
    This fruit fly model of alcoholism may provide researchers with new experimental options, such as the ability to easily track down genes that are involved with the disease. Some of these genes may be the same as those in humans. “It’s known that there’s a strong genetic component to alcoholism,” Devineni says. “Flies are one of the best model systems for genetics,” she adds.

    Laura Sanders
    10 December, 2009
    Science News
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