Name: Mark P.
Date: April 2003
I have heard about a particular experiment where fruit
flies were genetically altered to make them blind. After several
generations, eye sight returned. Is there any truth to such a
story? Can we really control genes so that we can make a fruit fly blind?
I don't know of what experiment you speak, so I don't know if this is true or not. But I do
know that if a gene mutates at random, a certain number of generations later, a mutation could
happen in the same place that will revert the gene to its original state. So IF there is a
single gene that can cause blindness in a fruit fly, and it was mutated, it is possible that
down the line a spontaneous mutation could occur that would put that gene back the way it was
and restore the fly's sight.
We have been genetically studying Drosophila for so long we know an enormous amount about its
genetics. We also use it to understand the biology of humans and other animals. We often
understand genes by mutations of those genes. When a mutation prevents a gene from working
properly it gives us an idea of what the normal gene dies. Drosophila mutant strains that
exhibit age-related retinal degeneration become blind prematurely. We also know that gene N63
is important to eye development in the fruit fly. Genetic engineers are able to manipulate
incredible numbers of genes in fruit flies. We can even crudely manipulate development by
manipulating homeotic genes. Homeotic genes were identified early on as dominant mutations
affect the identity of body structures.
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