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Sugar Decreases the Havoc That Meth Wreaks on Fruit Flies

By Balzafire, Apr 22, 2011 | | |
  1. Balzafire
    What’s the News: Anxiety. Insomnia. Hallucinations. Methamphetamine’s effects on the human brain are well documented, but researchers know relatively little about how the drug affects the body on the molecular scale. Looking at fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), scientists have detailed how meth disrupts chemical reactions associated with generating energy, creating sperm cells, and regulating muscles. Most interestingly, they discovered that meth-exposed fruit flies may live longer when they eat sugar. “We know that methamphetamine influences cellular processes associated with aging, it affects spermatogenesis, and it affects the heart,” says University of Illinois entomologist Barry Pittendrigh. “One could almost call meth a perfect storm toxin because it does so much damage to so many different tissues in the body.”

    How the Heck:

    * By keeping tabs on protein production and gene expression while exposing fruit flies to meth, researchers discovered 34 changes in the molecular pathways that drive cells, disrupting cell structure, hormones, energy generation, sugar metabolism, sperm cell formation, as well as skeletal and cardiac muscles.
    * The major insight was that meth exposure may cause cells to produce energy via glycolysis, an inefficient means of energy production that breaks down glucose without using oxygen. Healthy cells use oxygen (oxidative respiration) to produce energy.
    * Based on this observation, the scientists then tested whether sugar metabolism is related to meth’s toxicity by feeding meth-exposed flies trehalose, a common antioxidant blood sugar in insects. These sugar-fed flies lived longer, showing that “we now have evidence that increased sugar intake has a direct impact on reducing the toxicity of meth, at least in flies,” as co-author Lijie Sun, of the J. Craig Venter Institute in the U.S., told COSMOS.

    What’s the Context:

    * Most meth studies on humans are more narrowly focused, looking at the impact on the brain, the heart, or reproductive organs. Because fruit flies are small, these researchers were able to take the whole organism into account, looking at “the great diversity of tissues that are being impacted.
    * The researchers say that meth is already known to cause rapid aging; now, by linking meth with oxidative stress, which is related to cellular aging, we now have a better idea of the smaller-scale factors in this process.
    * Other researchers have discovered that snails exposed to meth may have better memories.

    Not So Fast: Scienists need to conduct follow-up tests on mammals before they can say for sure whether these results apply to animals beyond fruit flies.

    The Future Holds:

    * It’s often said that meth users crave sugar; future research may build on this study and further tease out the link between sugar intake and meth toxicity.
    * Because cancer cells also rely on glycolysis to generate energy, the researchers believe that this study and similar ones could lead to a “greater understanding of the mechanisms of cancer growth.”

    by Patrick Morgan
    Health & Medicine, Living World
    April 21st, 2011


  1. kailey_elise
    Methamphetamine users already suck back Big Gulps & Slurpees like they're having a "free oral sex with every purchase!" sale going on.

    And they don't look like they're gonna live long. ;)

    ~Kailey the Sarcastic

    "Other researchers have discovered that snails exposed to meth may have better memories."

    And this surprises...who? I mean, (meth)amphetamines are given to people to help them study. It's generally when they abuse the shit out of it (see above: Slurpee consumers) that we run into problems. *grin*

    ps. that fruit fly with the transparent body & glowing red eyes is creepy as all get out.
  2. Phenoxide
    Oh God, nobody tell Sarah Palin! She's already taken shots at the humble fruit fly and its researchers but if she finds out these wacky scientists have been feeding them meth then they'll be hell to pay!

    They're much cuter (and smaller) than that picture might make them seem. Unless you're looking down a microscope you wouldn't clearly see those giant compound eyes and kinky "sex combs" (best anatomical feature ever). A swarm of meth-addled fruit flies might be less cute though. I'm actually quite interested as to how it affects their behavior. This kinda reminds me of that spiders on LSD study.
  3. Ghetto_Chem
    Swims friend thinks that this may not apply to humans though. It seems as though sugar is most likely a fruit flys main source of nutrition, but swims friend knows little on the insect.

    It could be translated though, that if a methamphetamine addict were to actually eat healthy foods and get proper nutrition, they might have less damage done to their body. But this seems like a "no shit" idea. Still interesting though :)

  4. Phenoxide
    Actually their dietary preference is for decaying fruit so they actually consume the microorganisms (typically yeast) as well as the fruit sugars. In the lab they're normally fed on a diet of yeast, which is probably a more balanced nutrient source than fruit sugars alone. It's not unreasonable to say that their metabolism is quite removed from that of humans though, which is why the article highlights there needs to be follow-ups in mammalian animal models.

    The only problem I can see with all this is presumably the flies are being fed the methamphetamine by spiking it into their food source. It's quite difficult to force feed tiny flies, so I can't think how else they'd dose them. I'm not sure how they're drawing conclusions if the more they eat they more meth they consume.
  5. RealGanjaMan
    Insect studies baffle me.

    I can't believe the little flys can even endure being maintained on methamphetamine. I wonder what the doses are...

    Agreed. So much of the damage caused during stimulant addiction could be prevented with proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
  6. Balzafire
    I didn't post it with the article, but the following was cited at the end:

    Reference: Sun L, Li H-M, Seufferheld MJ, Walters KR Jr, Margam VM, et al. (2011) Systems-Scale Analysis Reveals Pathways Involved in Cellular Response to Methamphetamine. PLoS ONE 6(4): e18215. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018215
  7. Balzafire
    Another article went into a little more detail:

    [imgl=white]https://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=19967&stc=1&d=1303571666[/imgl]A new study in fruit flies offers a broad view of the potent and sometimes devastating molecular events that occur throughout the body as a result of methamphetamine exposure.

    The study, described in the journal PLoS ONE, tracks changes in the expression of genes and proteins in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) exposed to meth. Unlike most studies of meth, which focus on the brain, the new analysis looked at molecular changes throughout the body, said University of Illinois entomology professor Barry Pittendrigh, who led the research.

    “One of the great things about working with fruit flies is that because they’re small, we can work with the whole organism and then look at the great diversity of tissues that are being impacted,” Pittendrigh said. “This is important because we know that methamphetamine influences cellular processes associated with aging, it affects spermatogenesis, and it impacts the heart. One could almost call meth a perfect storm toxin because it does so much damage to so many different tissues in the body.”

    By tracking changes in gene expression and protein production of fruit flies exposed to meth, the researchers identified several molecular pathways significantly altered by the drug.

    Many of these cascades of chemical reactions within cells are common to many organisms, including humans, and are similar even among very different families of organisms.

    The researchers found that meth exposure influenced molecular pathways associated with energy generation, sugar metabolism, sperm cell formation, cell structure, hormones, skeletal muscle and cardiac muscles. The analysis also identified several new molecular players and unusual disruptions of normal cellular events that occur in response to meth, though the authors acknowledge that further work is required to validate the role of these pathways in response to meth.

    Illinois crop sciences professor Manfredo Seufferheld, a co-author on the study, saw changes that indicate that meth exposure may alter the cell’s energy metabolism in a manner that mirrors changes that occur in rapidly growing cancer cells. Most types of cancer rely primarily on the rapid breakdown of glucose in a process called glycolysis, which does not require oxygen even when oxygen is available. In contrast, healthy cells tend to use oxidative respiration, a slower and more efficient energy-generating process that occurs in the presence of oxygen. This aberration in energy metabolism observed in cancer cells is called the Warburg effect.

    “The discovery of the molecular underpinnings of the meth syndrome in Drosophila – based on a systems biology approach validated by mutant analysis – has the potential to be used in advancing our knowledge about malignant cell proliferation by understanding the connections behind the Warburg effect and cell death,” Seufferheld said.

    Since glycolysis uses glucose to produce energy, the researchers tested the hypothesis that sugar metabolism is involved in the “toxic syndrome” spurred by meth. They found that meth-exposed fruit flies lived longer if they consumed trehalose, a major blood sugar in insects that also is an antioxidant.

    Human meth users are known to crave sugary drinks, said lead author Lijie Sun. “And now we have evidence that increased sugar intake has a direct impact on reducing the toxicity of meth, at least in flies.”

    The researchers found that meth caused changes that may interfere with the critical balance of calcium and iron in cells, and they were the first to identify numerous genes that appear to be involved in the meth-induced dysfunction of sperm formation.

    “All in all, this study shows that Drosophila melanogaster is an excellent model organism in which to study the toxic effect of methamphetamine at the molecular level,” said Illinois postdoctoral researcher Kent Walters, an author on the study.

    Source: University of Illinois
    April 21, 2011
  8. sassyspy
    Well, I've always had a bit of a time getting my head round research data and its actual effects to humans, when the research wasn't done with humans. Though most all research is of great value, and I certainly recognize the problems inherent with using human subjects, it still seems more accurate results could be obtained from using the same species? There's a professor at Columbia University who's using humans (Volunteers!) in his drug research. It is VERY interesting. His name is Dr Carl Hart.
    On the other hand, I think that ALL research can lead to more questions and further research, and that can't be bad!
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