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GAL Pals

More than 74,000 images of colour-highlighted fly brain neurons create a public research resource

25 March 2023

GAL Pals

Scientists often turn to the fruit fly Drosophila for its relatively simple (yet similar) tissues to our own. But peering into its brain is still mind-boggling. Over 8 years, researchers at The Flylight Project captured thousands of images of fly brains, while developing a genetic tool to tease these neuron tangles apart. By genetically modifying the flies’ DNA, they watch as specific enhancers help to switch on a gene called GAL4, lighting up each neuron with a random or stochastic combination of colourful fluorescence. Comparing these patterns in different cells allows the team to specifically label individual neurons (seen here in rainbow colours) – their branching forms revealing circuits within and between brain regions. The results of this painstaking work, involving 5000 different strains of fly, is now available as a public resource, aiding geneticists and brain researchers around the world.

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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