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Scientists Explore Molecular Effects of Meth with Fruit Flies

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Lab animals have been used for centuries to determine the effects of drugs, toxins, cosmetics and other chemicals, but recently drug researchers expanded this research to measuring the effects of methamphetamine at the molecular level using fruit flies.

Measuring the effects of meth at this level is "important because we know that methamphetamine influences cellular processes associated with aging, it affects spermatogenesis, and it impacts the heart. One could almost call meth a perfect storm toxin because it does so much damage to so many different tissues in the body," says researcher Barry Pittendrigh. The University of Illinois entomology professor says, "One of the great things about working with fruit flies is that because they're small, we can work with the whole organism and then look at the great diversity of tissues that are being impacted."

Most studies of meth focus on the drug’s effects on the brain, but due to its whole body toxicity, this research may lead to some answers as to how to better treat meth addiction. The cascade of chemical reactions is very similar, even in very different species. The research has shown that meth exposure affects sugar metabolism, cell structure, hormone production and distribution as well as many muscles. They are calling for further research to validate their results.