For the past 10 years or so, Howylab has been mainly focused on studying the alternative respiratory chain enzymes found in bacteria and in 'lower eukaryotes'. Particular focus has been on transferring them to more complex organisms, from which they have been lost during the course of evolution, i.e. flies, mammals and even human cells. We then use them as tools to investigate, and potentially alleviate, the consequences of mitochondrial dysfunction.
We recently had a new project funded, where we are following up our observation that mitochondria are much hotter than expected. Indeed, over 10ºC hotter than the rest of the cell! It's maybe not surprising that the hub of cellular energy metabolism should be hot. But the consequences of mitochondrial heat production and its potential biological significance are largely unexplored.
We are using Drosophila as the main system to address some of the issues arising.
The idea has taken root in some quarters that 'we don't need model organisms any more' because we can engineer any genome at will. However, I believe the opposite is true. To test any hypothesis about biology, we need to frame the question in a system or context sufficiently rich in content.
I predict that Drosophila as a model organism has hardly begun to come into its own. Studying flies is also far simpler, quicker, cheaper, more justifiable and usually more interpretable than using mammals.