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Fly catchers used in research on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease

Fly catchers used in research on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease
19th August 2015

Researchers at Stanford University are using fly catchers to speed up scientific insight into both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Fruit flies and humans actually share over 50 per cent of the same genes known to affect human disease, and so they are becoming increasingly crucial in the battle against the conditions. In recent years, however, gaining insight has been tricky because it takes a lot of time to prepare their small brains for research.

Mark Schnitzer, a professor of biology and applied physics at Stanford University, said: "We looked at this situation and thought, well, the fruit fly offers so many advantages, the powerful suit of genetic tools. On the other hand there is still a lot of human labour that is involved and with the advent of modern robotic technology we should be able to change the situation and to a degree of automation to the field that simply had not existed before."

The robotic fly catcher releases the flies onto a dish in the dark so that they don't fly away, and then infrared cameras guide a needle around to catch a fly. This entire process takes a few seconds and doesn't require any of the flies to be drugged, giving scientists a clean brain to study - this creates more accurate results. This new methodology has been published in the journal Nature Methods.

It is hoped that by catching the flies much quicker, research into Alzheimer's can be sped up, with the hope to one day find a cure. New research from the Stony Brook University in New York has suggested that sleeping on your side may help prevent Alzheimer's, and a host of other neurodegenerative diseases, due to waste clearance improving from the brain.

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