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A Genetically Engineered Fly That Can Smell Light

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the lsd-way-cheaper dept.

Biotech 111

An anonymous reader writes "It sounds like a cool — if somewhat pointless — super-powered insect: a fly that can smell light! Researchers added a light-sensitive protein to a fruit fly's olfactory neurons, which caused the neurons to fire when the fly was exposed to a certain wavelength of blue light. Adding the protein specifically to neurons that respond to good smells, like bananas, makes for a light-seeking fly."

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But can we wipe out pest bugs by making them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32369958)

... malfunction genetically?

Re:But can we wipe out pest bugs by making them... (4, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370098)

Harry! Harry! Don't look into the light!!!

I can't help it... it's sooo beautifull!!!!

zzzzzzzzzttt

Re:But can we wipe out pest bugs by making them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32370754)

I can't help it... it's sooo beautifull!!!!

I think you mean "delicious".

Re:But can we wipe out pest bugs by making them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32370776)

To infinity, and beyond! *starts flying towards the sun*

Re:But can we wipe out pest bugs by making them... (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 4 years ago | (#32371398)

We'd need to make sure they overwhelm the "normal" population fast enough that their dying wouldn't self-select them right out of the gene pool. This is contradictory :)

I for one (-1, Redundant)

nimbius (983462) | more than 4 years ago | (#32369974)

welcome our new fly overlords.

I for one, too (1)

zooblethorpe (686757) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370536)

Well, I, for one, am busy trying to figure out where the light blue bananas are...

Cheers,

Re:I for one (4, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32371434)

A fly that can smell light? Big deal.

My wife says that my feet smell evil.

Re:I for one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32372100)

haven't you ever heard? see no evil, hear no evil, smell no evil?

Re:I for one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32372450)

My wife says that my feet smell evil.

They led you to her didn't they?

Re:I for one (0, Redundant)

denmarkw00t (892627) | more than 4 years ago | (#32372324)

Seriously, mod this man UP. I understand that every insect/alien/Ballmer thread has an "I for one" post, but to be labeled redundant as the first of it's kind in a thread is ridiculous.

I, for one, DO NOT welcome our redundant-modding moderators.

Re:I for one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32376110)

I do.

What a wasted opportunity (3, Interesting)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#32369996)

They could've made them think a wavelength smells terrible and then sold fly repellant lightbulbs.

Re:What a wasted opportunity (3, Insightful)

Hazza64 (1820988) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370138)

No, you see the trick is to get them attracted to light. THEN they will land on those inefficient 80W bulbs attempting to eat it and burn their 'mouths' and feet in the process.

Re:What a wasted opportunity (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 4 years ago | (#32372568)

I'm gunna go out on a limb and guess this new suicide breed will not overtake the existing non-suicidal flies in the process of natural selection. Call me Nostradamus. ;)

Re:What a wasted opportunity (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 4 years ago | (#32373276)

Sorry, but the name "Nostradomus" is also taken.

Re:What a wasted opportunity (2, Insightful)

GundamFan (848341) | more than 4 years ago | (#32374822)

Nostradumbass on the other hand is, surprisingly, available.

Re:What a wasted opportunity (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 4 years ago | (#32374868)

You're kidding! I thought that'd be one of the first misspellings to be snatched up, especially on Slashdot!

Wait... user 205075 [slashdot.org] . You really were kidding.

Oddly enough, "Nostradomus" actually isn't a Slashdot account despite how often that spelling appears in the comments. I could have sworn it would.

Re:What a wasted opportunity (4, Insightful)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370234)

Right, and all they have to do is genetically engineer all the flies in the world, or at least every population of them.

Re:What a wasted opportunity (4, Funny)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370388)

Well? I'm waiting.

Re:What a wasted opportunity (2, Interesting)

tpwch (748980) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370936)

Well think about it. How many generations does it take for a favorable gene to spread trough the population? Give the flies another favorable gene as well as the smell gene, then set them loose to make babies. I read somewhere that it takes 3000-5000 years for humans, but fly generations are much shorter, so maybe we could reap the advantages in our lifetime.

Re:What a wasted opportunity (3, Funny)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 4 years ago | (#32371278)

That's for favorable genes. I believe that, from the fly's point-of-view, believing that blue light is food (and potentially causing it to fly into a human-produced trap) would be all that favorable.

Re:What a wasted opportunity (1)

kabloom (755503) | more than 4 years ago | (#32371842)

That's why he thinks that a fly-repellant-light gene would fare better.

Re:What a wasted opportunity (2, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#32372224)

You're thinking about it all wrong.

You set up fly traps that repel the genetically modified flies. What you end up with is flies that are genetically predisposed to stay away from the areas we designate. Assuming the genetic modifications don't have any other adverse affects I would say it would be a great idea. We could have a situation develop where flies stay away from us and yet are still part of the environment and the food chain.

Re:What a wasted opportunity (1)

Paradigma11 (645246) | more than 4 years ago | (#32374360)

You're thinking about it all wrong.

You set up fly traps that repel the genetically modified flies. What you end up with is flies that are genetically predisposed to stay away from the areas we designate. Assuming the genetic modifications don't have any other adverse affects I would say it would be a great idea. We could have a situation develop where flies stay away from us and yet are still part of the environment and the food chain.

Yes, but you would also have to increase the fitness of your engineered flies. make them attracted to a certain wavelength and place nutrition at lamps with this wavelength. also make them sexually compatible, but genetically dominant to the rest of the fly population.

Re:What a wasted opportunity (1)

tpwch (748980) | more than 4 years ago | (#32373986)

Which is why I wrote that they should insert another favorable gene as well, to increase the chances of those individuals genes being spread.

Re:What a wasted opportunity (1)

mhelander (1307061) | more than 4 years ago | (#32376160)

How do you couple them, preventing the spread of the one without the other?

Re:What a wasted opportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32373298)

Or they could make them attracted to infrared.
Then release them on a country you don't particularly like.
They either attempt to fly to the sun or fly to the next closest thing, humans.

The next new super-weapon has now been born.
Better yet, make them attracted to a crop colors.

Of course, it then becomes a problem when they superbreed to huge numbers.
But as always, we just make a bigger, more powerful fly to destroy those ones.
And so on, and so on.

Re:What a wasted opportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32373912)

Hmmm! They like the "Blue Light Special" sales or is that "Blue plate special" at the garbage dump!

Re:What a wasted opportunity (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32375404)

You're looking at it the wrong way....

Getting pestered at the campsite? Crack a special-wavelength-blue glowstick and toss it into a neighboring campsite. Go fetch!

IOW (4, Insightful)

aBaldrich (1692238) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370036)

In other words, it can see with its nose.

Re:IOW (5, Funny)

Kenshin (43036) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370136)

Next test subject: Toucan Sam.

Re:IOW (1)

by (1706743) (1706744) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370178)

Furthermore, if it were truly "smelling" light, then wouldn't it be able to smell objects obscured from vision (this being a contradiction, barring pathological situations)? As the saying goes, I smell a rat...

Re:IOW (1)

tenco (773732) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370292)

That's the part where "super powered" comes into play.

Close... (1)

toppavak (943659) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370274)

It would be more accurate to say that the flies perceive light that falls on those receptors fairly non-specifically as smell. To 'see' implies perception of light, but the lack of optics and the low-level organization that exists in photoreceptors, it's unlikely that the flies can perceive anything more detailed than a burst of smell when a light comes on.

Re:IOW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32370676)

Well, no. If you actually RTFS instead of just the title, you'll see that it only senses one color. It does not get an image, just the intensity of that one wavelength. It smells light.

Re:IOW (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370782)

it can see with its nose.

Then how does it smell?

Re:IOW (2, Funny)

RenderSeven (938535) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370838)

Then how does it smell?

Terrible! Da dum dum.

Re:IOW (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379136)

With its ears, of course.

Re:IOW (1)

xanadu113 (657977) | more than 4 years ago | (#32372734)

I can do that too, when appropriately lysergically enhanced... =)

How can they distinguish from normal behavior? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32370040)

I mean, flies are attracted to light already.

Re:How can they distinguish from normal behavior? (2, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370878)

They put little blindfolds on them, obviously.

Re:How can they distinguish from normal behavior? (1)

nut (19435) | more than 4 years ago | (#32371120)

Correct. Flies are already light-seeking diurnal creatures. If you want a fly to fly out of the house at night, turn on the porch light and turn off the inside lights.

I hope they corrected for this in their experiment - and I also wonder how they did it.

Re:How can they distinguish from normal behavior? (1)

RadioElectric (1060098) | more than 4 years ago | (#32373924)

Yeah, if only there were some place [frontiersin.org] where scientists would publish their research saying exactly what they did and what they found.

They did account for that.

Great Work (5, Funny)

Nuskrad (740518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370064)

Great work guys. You just invented moths.

Re:Great Work (2, Funny)

WindShadow (977308) | more than 4 years ago | (#32375934)

There goes the patent, clearly prior art.

Great news (3, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370126)

Finally, we have been able to achieve what we always needed: flies that can compete with human art critics.

On the other hand these flies are not as advanced as Arizona lawmakers, who apparently can feel if one is an illegal alien by 'looking at brands of shoes' (incidentally, will this not force the cops to hire a disproportional number of gays into service?)

Re:Great news (1)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370206)

"Arizona Lawmakers"

Nation wide ~65% approval rating for Arizona law, 70+% approval not counting Hispanics.

Re:Great news (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32372390)

Slavery had great approval ratings for a long time. I take it you supported that, as well?

Re:Great news (1)

rollercoaster375 (935898) | more than 4 years ago | (#32372414)

Why on earth would you not count hispanics?

Re:Great news (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#32372736)

The law is racist, he's just trying to be consistent.

Smell-o-vision (1)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370134)

Smell-o-Vision, here we come...

Re:Smell-o-vision (1)

hort_wort (1401963) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370368)

Yeah yeah, but for now we have to ask flies what the sexy girl pictures smell like.

"Hey Harvey, what about this one?"
*Bzzzztttttt*
"Bananas you say? I figure she'd be more strawberries than bananas."

Re:Smell-o-vision (2, Funny)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#32372240)

"Bananas you say? I figure she'd be more strawberries than bananas."

Harvey was doing you a solid.

I would much rather steer towards the girls associated with strawberries than the "girls" associated with bananas.

Next up... (1)

PirateBlis (1208936) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370166)

... I will create a Moquito that can see farts! Thus ending the age old question of "Who dealt it?"

Someone said it before ;) (4, Funny)

Longjmp (632577) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370182)

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana. heh.

Re:Someone said it before ;) (0, Redundant)

vashfish (974328) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370636)

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Hooray for ambiguity

Flies that eat oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32370202)

Just think if we could develop flies that eat oil. That'd clean up the gulf spill... and then some!

Waste of money (1)

miggyb (1537903) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370236)

I could have done that same research with $200 worth of drugs.

Re:Waste of money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32371420)

OH SHIT HOMEY
WEEDE LEAFES AMIRIGHT?
filtering filtering filtering filtering

Ok then.... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370258)

... The Fly: help me, help me. I'm so hungry and light is not filling.

Re:Ok then.... (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 4 years ago | (#32373288)

They should have made it a flavor rather than a scent. Then they could license it to Miller Brewing.

Did it put you whippersnappers in your place? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32370286)

I guess now we know how the smelloscope works ...

Re:Did it put you whippersnappers in your place? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32375090)

I was disappointed that there was no "goodnewseveryone" tag.

Problem now is (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370382)

they can't smell shit from shinola

So Fricken Laser Guided.... (1)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370402)

So what you are saying here is that if we can make an explosive small enough we can create laser guided flies that will seek out the spot and land and detonate. Should be good for taking off a nose or ear at least. Better yet a human only skin absorb-able poison that you can dip the fly into then give the target a coating of that light. Bingo one dead target and the murder weapon wings it way to oblivion.

Re:So Fricken Laser Guided.... (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 4 years ago | (#32371030)

So what you are saying here is that if we can make an explosive small enough we can create laser guided flies that will seek out the spot and land and detonate.

Wouldn't they be more likely to fly towards the laser's source? Probably not what you want....

New movie line (3, Funny)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370534)

"I love the smell of blue in the morning..."

Smile away! (1)

Yo,dog! (1819436) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370668)

Man, I could smell your feet a mile away!
Smile away!

Re:Smile away! (1)

Dragoniz3r (992309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32371232)

Smelly action at a distance.

Seeing is perceiving (1)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370856)

It's not like "sight" and "smell" go into totally separate processing units along totally separate conductors: both signals still went through a nerve and into a little fly brain.

All they did was get a perception of light to travel into the brain on a different bundle of almost identical nerves. What's the big deal? Haven't these people ever seen the Matrix? If you perceive it, you perceive it; for most purposes it doesn't make a damn bit of difference how the perception got into your brain.

Re:Seeing is perceiving (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 4 years ago | (#32374962)

it doesn't make a damn bit of difference how the perception got into your brain.

brb, getting some perception in my brain with a pole.

Re:Seeing is perceiving (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32375084)

brb, getting some perception in my brain with a pole.

EXPERIMENT EXECUTED SUCCESSFU! You gained perception of pain in your brain.

Bonus points... (2, Interesting)

boredsenseless (1246818) | more than 4 years ago | (#32370876)

if they call it "smision."

I've been lighting farts for years.... (2, Funny)

Bob_Who (926234) | more than 4 years ago | (#32371026)

...its smells so bright it makes your eyes water.

but.... (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#32371102)

But... why?

Re:but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32371344)

I work in this field. This isn't the first time people have done this stuff.
With flies and mice we have genetic control of individual neuron types (not just olfactory sensory neurons). This enables us to modify activity of individual neuronal classes. Light activation provides an easy way to make neurons fire. There are also channels available which will suppress firing. The identity of an odour is coded by the pattern of activated sensory neurons. By interfering is subtle ways with that pattern, we can ask how much do we need to change it in order for the odour to be perceived differently.

Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32371258)

I thought it smelled purple in here

Re:Hmmm (1)

jappleng (1805148) | more than 4 years ago | (#32371792)

If purple can be a flavor, why can't it smell? Well now it can!

Prior art (1)

rwyoder (759998) | more than 4 years ago | (#32371366)

Back in my mis-spent youth, a hit of blotter acid was all we needed to smell light, hear colors, and see sounds.

So what you're saying.. (1)

tpstigers (1075021) | more than 4 years ago | (#32371538)

..is that the fly got Jeff Goldblum's nose.

What Smells? (1)

Deaths Proxy (1795932) | more than 4 years ago | (#32371700)

* sniffs the air * What smells like blue?

Gene splicing (1)

norppalaho (878422) | more than 4 years ago | (#32371772)

... but how many asses it has?

Lame Superpowers (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 4 years ago | (#32372048)

.....this is what happens when you let Grant Morrison reboot nature.

geez (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32372236)

so many bad jokes.

but so much time to read....

Falling down face first into the confusion (0)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 4 years ago | (#32372336)

It is an exceedingly idiotic collection of assumptions and ignorance too profound to be able to recognize from the inside. There's not a shred of evidence saying that if a neuron has some perceptual tricera input, the signal would be anything other than the same old fluctuating ion densities. It certainly would not generate a signal part light-responsive and have that push through the neuron that's essentially unrelated. Just as any other increased signal impinging on a neuron causes it to fire more proportionally, I doubt the answer is 'in there'. Ah well, got to get back to work. Have fun.

This is cool but... (1)

Sentrion (964745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32372396)

It would be so much cooler if they embedded a chip in the fly and became the first to transmit a virus from a PC to an insect that smells light. http://idle.slashdot.org/story/10/05/26/1214214/Scientist-Infects-Self-With-Computer-Virus?from=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Slashdot%2Fslashdot+(Slashdot) [slashdot.org]

Insect zapper (1)

akayani (1211810) | more than 4 years ago | (#32372554)

"The company, owned by Apple, has also taken out a patent on a very specific frequency of insect zapper. While apologising for the accidental release of the flies, Jobs restated the company's pledge to make 1billion iZappers which are iLink compatible with your iHouse software. Press Buy Now on your iCare."

Next version, the smell-o-scope! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32372768)

Now all we need is to invent the smell-o-scope so we can smell distent cosmic object. Too bad, Wernstrom would give it "the worst grade imaginable--an A minus minus".

An answer to epistemological questions (1)

Clueless Nick (883532) | more than 4 years ago | (#32373014)

or a symptom of synaesthesia? Now we will know if orange smells like orange.

That's nothing, I know this guy (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 4 years ago | (#32373162)

I know this engineer who can feel colours: in his experience certain sensations would invoke colours.

He can't really explain or verbalize it and while he tries to he is at lost for words. When I inquire it's just a "strong association" he insists it's a physical experience and not so much "association".
You often hear him say "this feels yellow" something in that fashion.

Re:That's nothing, I know this guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32373192)

That'll be 'synaesthesia'.

Re:That's nothing, I know this guy (1)

JLangbridge (1613103) | more than 4 years ago | (#32373820)

I knew somebody with that; he could read words, like just about anyone, but each letter had a colour. Fill a whitebord with hundreds of letter "O"s, and add one Q, and he could find it instantly, it was the letter that was a different colour from the rest. His parents remember him saying "Hey, I didn't know you could change the colour of F, just by adding a line!" (i.e. turning it into E). That was their wake up call, and he was diagnosed with synaesthesia a few weeks later.

Zap! (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 4 years ago | (#32373560)

Cool, now these flies will head straight to the nearest bug zapper...

A wasted opportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32373946)

Shouldn't they be working on one which has been engineered to detect a half-open window so they can fly out of it?

SirVirtual (1)

SirVirtual (1802698) | more than 4 years ago | (#32375040)

I keeps seeing a little tiny Icarus head on a fly's body flying to the sun crying "help me help meeeeee....."

Philosophical: does it see or smell light? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32375486)

Is it smelling light, or seeing it? Is sight the ability of an organism to detect photons hitting it, or simply how an organism perceives some sort of physical stimulus? The latter seems less useful, since it would allow sight, smell, touch to all refer to the same physical stimulus.

Possible Next Project (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 4 years ago | (#32376022)

Maybe work on a therapy that would mend tissue cell DNA, and RNA?

That's nothing (1)

dbrossard (911407) | more than 4 years ago | (#32376852)

My dad can hear pudding
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