Students: Hritik Mehta, Omar Khasawneh, Robert Hughes

Title: A High Fat Diet Increases Sensitivity to Chemical Nociception in D. melanogaster

Abstract: The link between chronic pain and obesity has been studied extensively. Chronic pain has been attributed to obesity in many as a result of the stress excess weight imposes on one’s body. Additionally, it has been found that adipose tissue, or fat, contributes to the increase in pain through the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. A common cause of obesity is overeating calorie dense foods, or foods high in fat. A high fat diet has also been shown to elicit an immune response which increases pain sensitivity in vertebrates with or without obesity. The effects of a high fat diet on pain sensitivity in invertebrate models has yet to be determined. In this study, we analyzed the implications of a high fat diet on pain sensitivity in D. melanogaster, an economically affordable, easily accessible invertebrate with a fast reproduction cycle. A control group fed a regular fly food diet and an experimental group fed a high fat diet containing coconut oil mixed with regular fly food was created. Third instar larvae of each group were removed from their respective environments and 1.5 µl of 9% HCl was placed on them while a phone recorded the reaction until a “corkscrew” rolling motion was exhibited, indicating a pain response. Three experiments were performed containing 10 larvae from each group. Our results indicated that there was a significant decrease in pain response latency in larvae that consumed a high fat diet. 

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