The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

I Really Hope I Have the INDY Gene…

Even though its found in fruit flies. Bear with me here. Fruit flies are a favorite of researchers for several reasons. They reproduce quickly and they have human variations surprisingly often.

In science, when you discover something, you get to name it. I heard a story on NPR tonight by Robert Krulwich about some of the more interesting names given to fruit fly genes. The INDY gene in the title is short for “I’m not dead yet”, a gene which gives fruit flies abnormally long lives. Kenny is a bad gene if you are missing it…named after the South Park character, fruit flies die quick without this gene. Perhaps my favorite is the Ken and Barbie gene. A fruit fly missing this gene is (how shall I put this to be family friendly?) about as anatomically correct as Ken and Barbie dolls.

Unfortunately, the big committee that has power over these names is starting to crack down ruling that several of them (such as “Lunatic Fringe,” “Manic Fringe,” “Radical Fringe” and “Sonic Hedgehog”) go to far. There is a chance these could turn up in humans and they are afraid someone might be offended if a doctor to someone he has the “Lunatic Fringe” gene (which is now the less offensively named LFNG O- fucosylpeptide 3-beta-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase).

I think this is a great game. The Bernie Madoff gene could be be the one that hoardes food and doesn’t let other fruit flies have any. The A-rod gene shows wildly abnormal levels of hormones. What genes would you like to discover?


February 10, 2009 - Posted by | Biology

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