Why Fruit Flies Are the New Lab Rats

These Quick-Breeding Insects Have Similar Genetic Cellular Functions as Humans

Set out a bowl of fruit, and they will arrive: small, buff-colored flies with garnet eyes and an attraction to fermenting bananas. Annoying but not harmful, they are easy to dismiss as unimportant. But one species of fruit flies in particular—Drosophila melanogaster—is becoming important to an increasing number of patients and their families.

Fruit fly research has long provided fundamental insights that turn out to apply to humans. Fly research has helped us learn how fertilized eggs grow into mature adults, how cells in our bodies communicate with one another, and …