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Academy at Palumbo students aid cancer research through study of fruit flies

Photo: Emma Lee/WHYY

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

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South Philly’s Ibrahim Bakri is a matchmaking pro.

During his senior year at the Academy at Palumbo, he learned that mating is simple: Get a bunch of girls together with a few guys in a small space, and the results are libidinously wild.

"So we just put them in vials, a whole bunch of females, a couple males, and just left them overnight," he said, "and by the time we came back there were eggs all over the place."

We’re talking, of course, not of hormonal teenagers, but of fruit flies.

Bakri’s Advanced Placement Biology class is the first to take part in Fox Chase Cancer Center’s fruit fly foot-locker program.

Fox Chase provides a foot locker of top-notch gear to a high school science classroom, and students perform completely novel research that aims to determine how household food items affect fruit-fly cell proliferation.

"Things like Cool Ranch Doritos and Monster and cheese puffs," said Bakri, adding Diet Pepsi to the list, "and we saw how if you introduce those things, how they could alter the development of fruit flies."

On a recent rainy morning at Palumbo, Bakri peered through the sights of a microscope attached to a 20-inch monitor – allowing a huddle of classmates to see his vantage point in real time. The fruit-fly eggs resemble small reddish-brown periods with tiny antennae. Some of the newly spawned flies crawl around on a purplish goo called agar.

Bakri’s group infused it with traces of Monster energy drink.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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