[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
Sarah Palin on the campaign trail was at times dismissive of science. She attacked fruit fly research, saying that tax dollars were going to “projects having little or nothing to do with the public good, things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.”
Well, as the mother of a special needs baby, maybe Palin should check out a report in the current issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience. University of Alberta researcher Francois Bolduc keeps 300,000 fruit flies in a basement laboratory. He discovered that disrupting one gene known as FMR1 in the flies’ brains can wipe out their long-term memory. What’s interesting for us is that damage to that gene in people is associated with learning and memory problems, epilepsy and autism. That constellation of traits is known as fragile X syndrome. Bolduc then worked on curing his forgetful flies—he found a class of drugs that reduces the activity of the FMR1 gene. And the insects were able to regain their memory. Which could point to treatments for fragile X syndrome in humans. Thanks to fruit fly research in Alberta, Canada. I kid you not.
Announcer: For more on McCain-Palin science slipups, listen to the December 17th episode of the weekly SciAm podcast, Science Talk, and check out the Anti Gravity column in the January issue of Scientific American magazine, also available at SciAm.com/sciencemag