Manchester conference to discuss 'the Lord of the flies'

Over 350 scientists from around the world are gathering at The University of Manchester for ‘Neurofly’, the 13th conference on Drosophila neurobiology, which starts today and runs until 5 September.

Drosophila is the tiny fruitfly which has been used for a century to unravel the secrets of how genes contribute to the formation and function of the brain and influence behaviour, in both health and disease.

Conference co-organiser Professor Matthew Cobb, at Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences, said: “Amazingly, many important discoveries in human behaviour were first revealed in Drosophila. For example, the genes that make our biological clocks “tick” were discovered in the fly and now help us understand “jet-lag” or sleeping disorders.

“This surprising similarity between humans and flies is being explored in a number of presentations at Neurofly, many of which use the fly as a "test tube" for understanding aggression, learning or sleep, as well as neurological disorders.

“From mental retardation to autism, from prion disease to spastic paraplegia, researchers will be showing how the fly is able to cast light on human genetic disorders and help chart the way to potential treatments.”

Co-organiser Professor Richard Baines added: “One of the highlights of the conference will be Professor David Lomas’s talk on using flies to understand Alzheimer’s disease. But it isn’t all so serious. Researchers will also be talking about how the twitchiness of maggot muscles changes with age, how different size flies manage to climb, and addressing one of the age-old questions: are male and female brains shaped differently."

Co-organiser Dr Andreas Prokop said: “Given the past record of Drosophila research, any one of these apparently obscure topics might give rise to important insights into human behaviour and health.”

For more information visit http://www.meeting.co.uk/confercare/neurofly2010/

Notes for editors

Fruitfly image available.

For an image, more information or to arrange an interview with one of the conference organisers, contact Professor Matthew Cobb on 07500 028691 or Media Relations Officer Mikaela Sitford on 07768 980842.