A precious living library

Matthew Camilleri in the lab

Author: Dr Ruben J. Cauchi

Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) have helped scientists discover innumerable secrets about humanity. Over 1,000 types of these flies are living at the University of Malta’s (UM) Motor Neuron Disease (MND) Laboratory. Each type or ‘stock’ is unique, and UM researchers have generated the majority of stocks through genetic engineering over the last 11 years. Flies need constant care, fly food needs to be freshly prepared, and stocks must be monitored to avoid overpopulation and sudden death. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced universities worldwide to close campuses, leaving researchers to work and teach from home. But research activities, especially the care of living organisms, have to continue even in the face of a shutdown.

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The futsal challenge for ALS

This time last year, the Ice Bucket Challenge made ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) one of the hottest topics across the world. Who had not watched videos of people dumping buckets of ice-cold water over their heads to raise funds for ALS? ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that causes the death of the body’s motor neurons, and which in turn causes mobility problems that can lead to death in the space of just three to four years. Words by Sarah Spiteri.

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