Freeze-tolerant Flies

Organisms that live at the frigid poles of our planet have evolved strategies to withstand temperatures that would kill most species instantly. Some secrete ice-nucleating substances that control the freezing process, for example, while others accumulate anti-freeze proteins that allow their cells to remain unfrozen even at subzero temperatures, a phenomenon known as supercooling. Now, researchers in the Czech Republic have shown that some of these strategies can be conferred upon species that would otherwise succumb to the cold, like the temperate-adapted Drosophila melanogaster.

The results, published today (February 13) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could have implications for tissue storage and cryopreservation strategies for more complex organisms.

“It’s an amazing paper,” said Ben Philip, a physiologist ecologist at Rivier College in New Hampshire, who was not involved in the research. “We previously considered organisms to fall into one of two groups—freeze tolerant or intolerant. The study’s novelty comes from being able to make the intolerant tolerant.”

Drosophila melanogaster. Wikimedia Commons, André Karwath

via Freeze-tolerant Flies | The Scientist.

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