Scientists study how astronauts are affected by microgravity, but with a relatively small number of human subjects available to them, they often turn to model organisms for research. Model organisms are living organisms that have a genetic makeup that is relatively well-documented and understood, and is similar to human systems.
Fruit flies are reliable model organisms because their systems closely resemble that of larger organisms. They have the benefit of being small in size, well understood, and reproduce quickly so many generations can be studied in a short amount of time. Some of the things we can study using fruit flies are how microgravity affects the immune system. Will the muscle cells of the heart lose strength in microgravity? Are reproduction, lifespan and the aging process affected by microgravity? Do changes in gravity affect the basic metabolic rate and metabolism of living systems? Fruit flies offer a manageable way to study living systems in microgravity.
Learn more about other model organisms and how they are being used for microgravity research, and keep up with all the science being conducted aboard your orbiting laboratory by visiting ISS Research Overview on nasa.gov