Monday, October 27, 2008

Sarah Palin's Fruit Fly Obsession - Attack Of The Killer Armadillos



Please see Updates and New Sidebar Bits at bottom of post


Apparently, based on her comments at least, Sarah Palin is now going after the US government's funding of science.

The science of genetics to be more precise.

Now, as David Suzuki demonstrated in work that made him a famous scientist long BEFORE he became famous for being a TeeVee star, fruit flies (a.k.a. Drosophila melanogaster) are a model organism ripe for genetic manipulation.


Because they are super fast breeders and it is easy to mutate their genes and then screen for physical changes that occur because of those mutations.

And one of those mutations causes flies to become sort of hunchbacked and segmented. As a result the researchers who did the work, which was funded by US government grants, called the gene 'Armadillo'.


But I digress....

Returning to the matter at hand, the Empress Sarah Palin recently denounced a certain type of research as an egregious 'earmark' because it leads to the disbersement of......


Whatever you say there your Empress of the Stoopidness.

But here's the real thing.

That Armadillo gene mentioned above?

Guess what?

It turns out that the human form is a critical component of an entire genetic pathway that now forms the basis for the genetic screening of familial colon cancer.

And correcting those mutations and/or blocking their function is now the focus of a huge therapeutic initiative for treating ALL colon cancers. In fact, this approach forms the basis of modern cancer research's 'holy-grail', in which the goal is to develop of patient-specific treatments that are way less toxic than the old-fashioned 'slash-and burn' chemo treatments that are still in widespread use today.

And if you click through on the links you will see that all that work, from flies to man (weird that bizarre little bit of evolutionary conservation of a critical gene pathway, eh?), was done by Americans whose research was funded by the American government.

And all of that is just one example amongst many.

Because there are dozens of other diseases, including autism, research for which Palin was pushing when she suddenly started spouting nonsense, in which work originally done in fruit flies, and/or tadpoles, and/or round worms, and/or tiny little transluscent Zebrafish, and/or stinky old hypermutable yeast is leading to a revolution in molecular medicine.

Sure sounds like dumb stuff to waste public money on when you could be spending it on, oh I dunno, Bridges To Nowhere, the Greed-Headed Deadender Followers of Mr. Greenspan and/or Haliburton.

Right Empress?


And why Paris France you might be asking if American Fly Research is so strong? Well, it turns out that, due to its importance to fundamental life science research, fruit fly work is now done all over the world (although its birthplace was most definitely the United States).
And for a slightly different perspective, (but not much) here is noted scientist-blogger PZ Meyer's take on the subject of the stoopid.
And, for the record, Mr. Olbermann agrees (thanks to Lotuslandian Greeniac and fellow baseball freak Bob Broughton for the link).
Update: Looks like our old friend Mike the Mad Biologist and wise commenter Reginald S. might have real scoop on the funded research derided by the Empress of the Stoopid. And, despite the fact that intent of Palin's remark was to tag fly research as eggheaded, elitist and wasteful, it looks like the specific stuff being funded here will only make her look stoopider than even the stupidest can possibly be. If that's even possible.


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