Fruit flies are used in scientific research, including the study of autism at the University of North Carolina.
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, whose youngest son Trig, has Down Syndrome, is said to be a great champion for special needs children and their families. Today Gov. Palin gave her first address on Congressional policy should she and John McCain be elected November 4th. During her presentation she mocked the scientific study of fruit flies in Paris, France. However, fruit flies are used by researchers to study the origins of autism, one of the special needs afflicting some of the very children Gov. Palin was discussing in her speech.
This morning, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) gave her first policy speech urging the federal government to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), “a law ensuring services to children with disabilitiesthroughout the nation.” In the speech, Palin cited the need to do more for children with disabilities such as autism:
For many parents of children with disabilities, the most valuable thing of all is information. Early identification of a cognitive or other disorder, especially autism, can make a life-changing difference.
Palin claimed that the amount that Congress spends on earmarks “is more than the shortfall to fully fund IDEA.” She then ridiculed some of the projects – such as “fruit fly research” – saying they have little or no value:
Where does a lot of that earmark money end up anyway? […] You’ve heard about some of these pet projects they really don’t make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.
Palin did not specify what fruit fly research earmark she was referring to (presumably a grant for olive fruit fly research), but she is apparently unaware that scientific research with fruit flies has led to valuable discoveries that have boosted autism research, as a study at the University of North Carolina demonstrated last year:
[S]cientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have shown that a protein called neurexin is required for..nerve cell connections to form and function correctly.
The discovery, made in Drosophila fruit flies may lead to advances in understanding autism spectrum disorders, as recently, human neurexins have been identified as a genetic risk factor for autism.
The study of fruit flies has also been used for other autism research and “revolutionize[d]” the study of birth defects.