Simplifly (TM): A Fly Genetically Programmed to Identify a Single Scent


A fruit fly modified to express only a single odor receptor and therefore only capable of sensing one chemical odorant; used as an animal model for sensory and nervous system studies or as a living biosensor for chemical identification.

Key Benefits

  • New model for sensory research that simplifies the olfactory system.
  • Insect-based behavioral biosensors may be cheaper and easier to manage than digital/electrical systems or use of other animal species.

Technical Summary

Drosophila melanogaster is commonly used as a research tool for biological research. Because of their well-known and well-mapped systems (genetic and anatomical), drosophila are used readily in both genetics and neuroscience research, particularly when examining the impact of a particularly gene on fly behavior. Emory researchers have created a new fly line with a single olfactory receptor to study the sensory system and its underlying neurobiology and genetics. A wild-type fly contains 61 receptors which cause inherent complications in studying the impact of a single gene and its associated receptor on behavior.

Although the fruit fly is more commonly viewed as an animal model for scientific research, a fruit fly capable of detecting only a single odorant has the potential to be used in other capacities as a living behavioral biosensor for chemicals. For example a receptor to a particular chemical odorant such as TNT (2,4,6-trinitrotoluene) or a particular illicit drug could be generated and used to detect screen materials in the same manner as dogs are currently used. Because insects can perceive as little as picograms of specific volatile organic compounds per cubic meter of air in milliseconds, they may be significantly more sensitive and accurate than canine or digital screening techniques.

Developmental Stage

Fly has been bred and is available for licensing.

Patent Information

Tech ID: 14012
Published: 2/25/2014