A single species of fly, Drosophila melanogaster, has been the subject of scientific research for more than one hundred years. Why does this tiny insect merit such intense scrutiny?
Drosophila's importance as a research organism began with its short life cycle, ability to reproduce in large numbers, and easy-to-see mutant phenotypes. Over time, laboratory investigation revealed surprising similarities between flies and other animals at the level of genes, gene networks, cell interactions, physiology, immunity, and behavior. Like humans, flies learn and remember, fight microbial infection, and slow down as they age. Scientists use Drosophila to investigate complex biological activities in a simple but intact living system. Fly research provides answers to some of the most challenging questions in biology and biomedicine, including how cells transmit signals and form ordered structures, how we can interpret the wealth of human genome data now available, and how we can develop effective treatments for cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Written by a leader in the Drosophila research community, First in Fly celebrates key insights uncovered by investigators using this model organism. Stephanie Elizabeth Mohr draws on these "first in fly" findings to introduce fundamental biological concepts gained over the last century and explore how research in the common fruit fly has expanded our understanding of human health and disease.
Appendix A. How to Make a Flytrap
Appendix B. Comparable Organs in Humans and Flies
Appendix C. Selected Genetic Screens Performed in Drosophila
Stephanie Elizabeth Mohr is Lecturer on Genetics at Harvard Medical School.
"A popular appreciation of fruit flies has seemed long overdue to me. No single animal has contributed as much to the field of genetics as the ordinary and ubiquitous Drosophila melanogaster [...] To read First in Fly is to appreciate the full scope of fruit-fly research and to understand the intimate connections in the DNA of every human cell and Drosophila cell."
– Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic
"Mohr reveals a raft of breakthroughs discovered 'first in fly,' such as the molecular mechanisms of circadian rhythm. Serious science, elegantly described."
– Barbara Kiser, Nature
"Mohr's First in Fly: Drosophila Research and Biological Discovery takes you into the labs to examine one small organism that makes so much biomedical and genetic research possible [...] Its deep dive into the incredible and outsized role these tiny flies play in scientific research will not disappoint."
– Mary Beth Griggs, Popular Science
"First in Fly provides a superb foundation on which to explore new avenues in biology. Mohr presents a riveting account of discoveries made possible by research on the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, over the past 110 years. No model organism has contributed more to our understanding of genetics and developmental biology. This book is highly recommended for scientists both young and established, and for all who wish to learn more about the origins of many commonly accepted facts in biology."
– Hugo Bellen, Baylor College of Medicine
"From the nature of genes to the secrets of behavior to cancer therapy, Mohr captures how fundamental research on the unassuming and ubiquitous fruit fly has driven revolutions in biology and medicine. The material is rich; the subject is timely; and the premise is powerful. An important read."
– David Bilder, University of California, Berkeley
"An accessible resource for experts and non-experts alike, First in Fly beautifully articulates how the fruit fly has made enormous contributions to our understanding of genetics and biology. Stephanie Mohr demystifies the fruit fly through humor and facts, while also shedding light on how the study of one small and unquestionably valuable insect has contributed to the understanding of cognitive and biological processes."
– Giovanni Bosco, Dartmouth College
"Stephanie Mohr brilliantly illuminates the discovery and relevance of the fruit fly. She transforms vague public awareness of Drosophila into a breathtaking landscape of research, building a case for pure science as the source of most scientific surprises, revolutions, and ultimately, practical applications. Really, everything has been touched by flies; from the international laws impacted by mustard gas and radiation mutations to the testing of new drugs to the appreciation of how single egg cells turn into wonderfully complex bodies. This book illustrates why we should all be very grateful to these flies and the 'fly people' who study them."
– George Church, Harvard University
"First in Fly is a reader-friendly yet scholarly account of fruit fly biology and genetics. As Dr. Mohr clearly presents, the fly provides the best system for understanding the basic mechanisms of development and disease, and how those mechanisms apply to all other animals, including humans."
– Peter Lawrence, University of Cambridge
"First in Fly distills a century of biology research on Drosophila into a set of exciting, mind-bending stories. Mohr captures the thrill of scientific discovery and the creative spirit of this research community, while clearly explaining the scientific findings and relating them to human biology and health. Her book tells a vital story about the remarkable extent of evolutionary conservation, and is both important in scope and a pleasure to read."
– Andrea Page-McCaw, Vanderbilt University