Genetic engineering lets fruit flies 'smell' light

Scientists in Germany have genetically engineered fruit fly larva to 'smell' blue light -- and apparently it smells like bananas! According to a paper published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, researchers at Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum were able to splice a gene for a light-activated protein into cells in the olfactory system. Depending on which cell was spliced, the larva perceived the blue light as smelling like anything from bananas to marzipan or even glue. The scientists used thin electrodes to detect the light-activated neurons, and it is hoped that research in this area will lead to similar procedures that don't harm living animals. Now that they've perfected modding Drosophila larvae, the scientists say they'd like to move on to adult fruit flies. Which is cool with us -- just as long as they don't repeat Seth Brundle's mistakes.