Cell Tracking Using HaloTag: Why are Scientists Chasing Cells?

Cells, commonly considered the smallest unit of life, provide structure and function for all living things (3).

Eye of a fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, scanning electron microscopy. Scientists used HaloTag for cell tracking during eye development.
Eye of a fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, scanning electron microscopy

Because cells contain the fundamental molecules of life, in some situations such as yeast, a single cell can be considered the complete organism. In other situations, for more complex multicellular organisms, a multitude of cells can mature and acquire different, specialized functions (3).

Cells developing specificity are undergoing differentiation, a process where a cell’s genes are either turned “on” or “off” resultant in a more specific cell type. As these differentiated cells start to exhibit their identity, they organize themselves into the tissues, organs, and organ systems integral to the functioning of a multicellular, developing organism. This process in which order and form is created within a developing organism is referred to as morphogenesis (5).

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Can Fruit Flies Glow in the Dark?

Fruit fly. Image from morguefile.
Question: How is a fruit fly like a firefly? No, this is not an obvious answer (their names start with the letter “f”) or the beginning of a bad entomology joke. These two organisms may both be winged insects, but as it turns out, what makes the firefly light show such a special treat on summer evenings is something that fruit flies, the bane of the kitchen in the summertime and annoyance for labs near Drosophila researchers, can mimic with a little help from a synthetic luciferin substrate as reported in PNAS. Continue reading “Can Fruit Flies Glow in the Dark?”

Indy (I’m not dead yet)

DrosophilaI take my hat off to the original inventors of Drosophila gene nomenclature. They managed to create names that are clear descriptions of the genes effect, are easy to remember, and express something of the humanity of the scientists behind the discovery. Once you’ve heard it, you can’t forget that Cleo (Cleopatra) is only lethal in the presence of Asp, or that in tinman, the embryo has no heart. I really appreciate the ease-of-use of FlyBase and the incidental entertainment value of many of the Drosophila gene names.

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