St. John's Wort and Fruit Flies
Name: Phillip B.
In my AP Biology class, we have begun designing
experiments which are pretty much just limited by what one can do with
fruit flies. My partner and I became interested in somehow incorporating
Saint John's Wort into our experiment. I read articles at www.fda.gov
which mentioned that the FDA believes Saint John's Wort may be safe when
taken by itself, but when it is taken with other medications, such as
oral contraceptives, protease inhibitors and even cholesterol medicine,
it may produce adverse effects.
The hypotheses suggest Saint John's Wort
may interfere in the metabolic pathways of the fore-mentioned types of
medication as well as fifty more. My dilemna begins with not knowing of
any pharmaceuticals, whether oral contraceptives or cholesterol lowering
medicines which, may produce an observable result in fruit flies
(drosophila melanogaster). What I imagined was a two staged experiment
where the first stage would be defined by testing a given medication
which had been proven in prior research or was most likely to produce a
quantitative or qualitative result of sorts. After the presence and
magnitude of a result was measured in the first stage, the second stage
would incorporate Saint John's Wort and I would observe for any
noticeable change in the fruit flies.
My problem is that I do not know
enough about the metabolic pathways of fruit flies and the chemicals
involved in their functioning. I also do not know about the other 50
medications which the article alluded to. I was wondering if
Ask-A-Scientist could help me in terms of locating comprehensive data
about the metabolic functionings in a fruit fly, medications which may
produce noticeable affects in fruit flies, the metabolic pathways in
which those medicines function, and finally medicines which may interfere
with Saint John's Wort.
Any information or resources I could use would
be immensely appreciated.
I commend you on your idea-but I think you are trying to take on a project
that is too big to start. The first thing you have to try is whether or not
ANY of these things has an effect on fruit flies. This project sounds like
one that would need to be broken down into many separate experiments that
would build on each other. I'm sure you don't have the time to invest in
that. Why not just try one aspect of it-for example, whether St. John's Wort
has any noticeable effect on their phenotype or their behavior.
Your intentions seem logical prima fascia but they probably are not what
most scientists would accept to go on with an experiment. When performing
this type of research a scientist looks for the proper model system in which
to perform the studies s/he desires. In this case since it is drug
interaction in many respects a mammalian model seems called for. I know of
cross reactions with monoamine oxidase inhibitors and such but the
overarching issue is that in such a complex system even if you were
performing specific biochemical assays in Drosophila I would be very
skeptical of any sort of conclusion extrapolated to the mammalian system
since the endocrine and exocrine systems of the two Phyla are so drastically
different. I would look for a new project. If you need ideas mail back with
the field you are interested in and I can probably come up with some ideas
that can be done at your high school.
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Update: June 2012