how scientists are now using fruit flies to study brain injuries

While there is currently a significant effort underway in youth, teen, amateur and professional sports leagues to raise awareness about the dangers of concussions, the danger for long-term brain injuries is still very real for many athletes.

That’s because unlike other medical conditions, which can be easily diagnosed by appearance alone or by measuring certain vital signs, concussion symptoms vary from person to person and may not always be obvious from a cursory examination.

This, of course, means that athletes or even accident victims who have unknowingly suffered blows to the head and report to hectic hospital settings for treatment may see their complaints of dizziness, blurred vision and loss of balance dismissed by harried physicians as symptoms of other, less serious conditions, or perhaps ignored altogether.

The good news is that researchers are currently working on ways not only to improve diagnostic procedures, but also to develop treatments for concussions/traumatic brain injuries.

Consider fascinating research currently underway at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, in which scientists are using fruit flies to study the immediate and long-term impact of traumatic brain injuries.

While this may seem strange, the scientists indicated that fruit flies actually make ideal specimens for just such a study due to the fact that they can be raised by the thousands, have their genetic structure altered rather easily and, perhaps most significantly, have relatively short life spans to measure long-term effects. In fact, they indicated that fruit flies have been used in major studies examining everything from epilepsy to addiction.

“At a fundamental level, a brain cell is a brain cell,” said one of the scientists behind the study. “If there’s some damage to it, it shouldn’t make any difference if that damage is occurring because it’s inside the head of a fly or inside the head of a human.”

Here, the scientists are putting the fruit flies into spring-loaded vials that are propelled against a foam pad, an action that causes the insects to be knocked out temporarily.

While you may still be skeptical, consider that in a recently published study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists have indicated that they’ve already discovered viable leads toward a biological marker for concussions, as well as a potential pathway for blocking neuron degeneration.

Here’s hoping that these efforts continue to yield positive results …

If medical negligence has resulted in irreparable harm to your loved one, consider speaking with an experienced attorney.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, “Could NFL concussion questions be solved by fly swatters?” Geoffrey Mohan, October 14, 2013

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