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Understanding aging by investigating genes, diet, and biochemistry in Drosophila


To explore the problem of aging, we used fruit flies to model the physiological effects of genes and environment. The biochemistry of Drosophila melanogaster can act as a window into the inner workings of fruit flies and serve as a possible explanation of observations in our experiment on aging. To examine the biochemical profiles of the flies from our main starvation assay, we extracted protein, triacylglycerol (TAG), glucose, and glycogen from samples of flies and compared the concentrations of those chemicals across genotype, diet, and age. High levels of TAG were a marker for greater starvation resistance which was optimized for young flies at lower body weights. Older flies were less affected by size, and their starvation resistance was more exclusively dependent on TAG levels. Performance in the climbing assays improved with lower mass, but the velocity of young flies increased with lower TAG levels, while the fastest old flies had high TAG levels. The protein-rich Diet IV led to higher levels of TAG than the sugar-rich Diet V. Flies on Diet V, however, exhibited greater starvation resistance than those on Diet IV. We propose that the apparent contradiction between Diet IV’s high levels of TAG and poor performance in the starvation assay may be resolved if the flies on Diet IV consumed a greater amount of food, became bigger, and thus required more energy to survive, resulting in a quicker death under starvation. We have demonstrated that a multifaceted approach is necessary in order to study the complex phenomenon of aging.


Devlin, Tyler, "Understanding aging by investigating genes, diet, and biochemistry in Drosophila" (2014). Summer Research Symposium. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.



  • Summer Research Symposium

    Each year, Brown University showcases the research of its undergraduates at the Summer Research Symposium. More than half of the student-researchers are UTRA recipients, while others receive funding from a variety of Brown-administered and national programs and fellowships and go …