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Bioluminescent Bees: How Biologists are Illuminating Insects at Work


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Biologists, with the help of an international team of researchers, tracked the brain activity of bees and made them glow while working after modifying the genetic code and causing the brain cells to produce a glowing protein.

The research team said that insects are important model organisms for research despite more than 600 million years of independent evolution, and insects have more than 60 percent of DNA identical to human DNA, and for several decades, the fruit fly’s genetic code can be used to study processes biological.

This research has been extended to other insects, with particularly promising results in bees. Bees exhibit complex social behaviors. They exhibit complex behaviors using orientation, communication, learning, and memory abilities, making them interesting topics for research on brain function and neural processing. .

Published in the journal PLOS Biology, a team of researchers from the Universities of Düsseldorf and Frankfurt have developed a method to directly observe the brains of bees.

The research team explained that the calcium sensor was integrated into neurons because it plays an important role in neuronal activity.

Dr. Albrecht Hasse, professor of neurophysics at the University of Trento, explained: “We modified the genetic code of honey bees to make brain cells produce a luminescent protein, which is a type of sensor that allows us to track which areas are activated in response. to environmental irritants. The intensity of the emitted light varies depending on the neural activity.”

And the team of researchers made the bees generate light signals when the neurons in the brain are active.

The research team explains that this idea was particularly difficult to implement because they had to work with the DNA of queen bees, unlike fruit flies, and keeping a queen bee in the lab is not easy, so that after genetic modification, the queens pass these modified genes to worker bees.

This group was eventually used to study the sense of smell of bees and how odor perception is “coded” in neurons.

The team of researchers said they stimulated the bees with a different scent and observed them with a high-resolution microscope to find out which brain cells were activated by those scents and how that information was distributed in the brain.

This study will bring scientists closer to solving one of the most important tasks of modern science, the creation of a comprehensive model of the functioning and thinking of the brain.

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