Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Fruit Flies Genetically Engineered to Smell Light

Blue light is perceived as the odor of bananas, marzipan or glue.

Researchers in Germany have genetically engineered larvae of the Drosophila fruit fly so that the insects smell blue light. They say the findings will shed new light on the flies’ olfactory system.

In this petri dish irradiated with blue light, normal larvae avoid areas exposed to light. Modified larvae (seen here as white shapes on the illuminated surface) perceive the light as a pleasant odor, and they move towards it.

Scientists spliced the gene for a light-activated protein into cells in the olfactory system that normally respond to different odors. When hit with light, the cells send a signal just as if they had sensed the odor. The exact smell the animal perceives depends on the cells that are activated. Researchers were able to make the flies smell both pleasant and unpleasant odors. While normal animals normally avoid light, the genetically engineered flies flocked to it if they perceived a pleasant smell, such as the odors of banana, marzipan or glue, which are all present in rotting fruit. The research was published in Frontiers in Neuroscience Behavior.

According to a press release from the Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum, the researchers now plan to use the same principle to undertake further studies on adult flies, equipping them with photo-activated proteins to trigger isolated cerebral neurons.

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Our best illustrations of 2022

Our artists’ thought-provoking, playful creations bring our stories to life, often saying more with an image than words ever could.

How CRISPR is making farmed animals bigger, stronger, and healthier

These gene-edited fish, pigs, and other animals could soon be on the menu.

The Download: the Saudi sci-fi megacity, and sleeping babies’ brains

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. These exclusive satellite images show Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway In early 2021, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia announced The Line: a “civilizational revolution” that would house up…

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.