Bromine found to be essential to animal life

Fruit flies deprived of the element die as larvae

1:09pm, June 5, 2014

FULL OF HOLES  Basement membranes help maintain tissues (fruit fly gut, left) in animals. Fruit flies raised without bromine (middle) develop holes (red arrows) in the basement membrane that can be repaired by adding bromine to the diet (right). Scale bar represents 20 micrometers.

Bromine is a secret ingredient in the recipe for animal life. The element is necessary for helping cells in multicellular animals stick together, researchers report in the June 5 Cell.

Previously, scientists knew that animals had bromine in their bodies, but researchers could find no biological use for it.

“The bottom line is of 92 naturally occurring elements, 27 are essential for the animal kingdom,” says Billy Hudson, a biochemist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville who led the work. At least, that was the number before the new study. “Now there are 28.”

Hudson’s team found that Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies need bromine to live. The researchers also provided insight into why bromine is essential for all animals, says Kevin Campbell, a membrane biologist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

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