Hemolymph circulation in insect sensory appendages: functional mechanics of antennal accessory pulsatile organs (auxiliary hearts) in the mosquito Anopheles gambiae.
The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, has served as a valuable model/organism for the study of aging and was the first organism possessing a circulatory system to have its genome completely sequenced. However, little is known about the function of the heartlike organ of flies during the aging process. We have developed methods for studying cardiac function in vivo in adult flies. Using 2 different cardiovascular stress methods (elevated ambient temperature and external electrical pacing), we found that maximal heart rate is significantly and reproducibly reduced with aging in Drosophila, analogous to observations in elderly humans. We also describe for the first time several other aspects of the cardiac physiology of young adult and aging Drosophila, including an age-associated increase in rhythm disturbances. These observations suggest that the study of declining cardiac function in aging flies may serve as a genetically tractable model for genome-wide mutational screening for genes that participate in or protect against cardiac aging and disease.