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Consider the fruit fly

The focus of this project is the common fruit fly, Drosophila Melanogaster. Drosophila is considered a perfect genetic model organism: cheap, easy to maintain and completely harmless to humans and animals. Biologist T. H. Morgan began working with drosophila in the famous Fly Room at Columbia University during the 1910s, which led to the discovery of genes and gene linkage. Since then, drosophila has become the staple of biomedical studies. Its role in laying the foundations of genetics, neuroscience, development, and other fields of modern biology has been recognized by the six Nobel prizes awarded to researchers for groundbreaking discoveries made with drosophila (though sadly, not to the flies themselves.) Moreover, as the human’s and flies’ genomes are remarkably close, drosophila is used for research of many human diseases, from cancer to dementia, and more recently, in the study of mental disorders and behavior patterns, including depression, aggression, and PTSD.

Paradoxically, while serving an excellent biological approximation of humans, fruit flies are considered not fully alive and as such, are exempt from the ethical protocols required by animal research. They inhabit the gray area: viewed as neither entirely mechanical, nor truly alive.

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