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Tell Me Flies

Quantifying functional neurons and supporting glial cells in developing fly brain reveals sex difference

25 August 2022

Tell Me Flies

How to build a brain? Here researchers peek inside a developing fruit fly (Drosophila) for answers – spotting what types of cells appear. The team use subtly different fluorescent markers to highlight neural stem cells (left) and a mixture of stem and supportive glial cells (right). Light sheet microscopy pinpoints each cell in 3D, revealing their depths in rainbow colours. But this is just the start – using genetic engineering the researchers go on to develop precise markers for 'active' neurons, those forming synapses to pass impulses around the early brain. While the fly’s brain is simpler than our own, we have enough in common to learn from its secrets. This combination of genetics, imaging and computer reconstruction allowed the researchers to spot differences in the numbers of neurons between male and female flies, raising interesting questions about similar sexual dimorphism in the human brain.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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