Fruit Flies and Kidney Stones

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Developing accurate animal models of human diseases is a well-established research goal but a recent paper reporting a new animal model of nephrolithiasis caught my attention. Kidney stones are an important cause of morbidity and dealing with them is estimated to cost more than $5 billion yearly in the US alone. The majority of cases are due to calcium oxalate stones which variously results from increased urinary calcium excretion or increased urinary oxalate (which may be due to increased production or gut absorption of oxalate).

A group in the Mayo clinic and Glasgow have developed a fruit fly model of calcium oxalate nephrolithiasis. Fruit flies have a single transparent kidney tubule and feeding the larvae a diet high in oxalate for just two days leads to the formation of visible calcium oxalate kidney stones.

The upper panel of the image above shows a renal tubule dissected out from a fruit fly fed with oxalate compared with one fed with a normal diet. The second panel is a high power view of the tubule along with a nice picture of some calcium oxalate crystals. The lower 3 panels are a series of pictures of a tubule kept in a bath high in oxalate where you can see the crystals forming over a period of hours – the authors helpfully included a video if this happening in the supplemental data of the manuscript. There are also some micro-CT images of the fruit flies with the stones in situ. The rapid formation of stones in these flies makes it an excellent model for the study of nephrolithiasis.

Also, it’s really cool.


  1. Thank you for the article. Do fruit flies have comparable metabolic systems to humans. That is does Vitamin C, glycine raise oxalate levels in fruit flies. Is there any indication that their dietary products were manipulated or modified to create high oxalate levels which would not be there naturally, for example was the apple soaked or made to have an increase of oxalates? I have other questions. I am curious because I do not have access to the model which is linked to from this article.

  2. Nice Blog. Thanks for sharing this blog with us.A kidney stone is a solid mass made up of tiny crystals. One or more stones can be in the kidney or ureter at the same time.

  3. Awesome post.Really very very informative article.I have no idea about this.But after reading your article I know about this.Thanks for your helpful post.

    how to get rid of fruit flies.

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