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What if social behavior affected the progression of even noncontagious diseases? This is precisely what has been demonstrated by French CNRS teams,(1) with support from the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), Paris-Sud University, the University of Montpellier, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), and colleagues from Spain and Australia. Using a fly model of intestinal cancer, the researchers have shown that disease progression is impacted both by social isolation–which has a negative effect–and the composition of the social group with which individuals associate. Their findings are published in Nature Communications (September 3, 2018).

For many animals, humans included, social behavior can play a critical role in the survival of individuals. The effect that interactions between individuals can have on the spread of communicable diseases is well known. But is there any connection between social interactions and the progression, within sick individuals, of noncommunicable diseases like cancers? To address this question, the scientists chose the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as their research model. Control of the social environment and experimental induction of disease (an intestinal cancer in this case) are both easily achieved when working with drosophilas. The team sought to determine whether the

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