Researchers at Duke University are interested in understanding the metamorphosis of fruit flies from larvae to adult stage in an effort to understand how the insects grow new nerve endings as they undergo this transition. What is interesting is that the flies lose neurons they will not need as an adult and will grow new nerve endings. According to a press release from Duke University, a protein called Cysteine proteinase-1 (Cp1) is important in the regeneration step. In fact, their study found that fruit fly nerves cannot regenerate in the absence of this protein.
Since humans are not able to regenerate damaged neurons, the goal is to eventually help humans with brain injuries grow new neurons.
Kentaro Kato, Alicia Hidalgo. An Injury Paradigm to Investigate Central Nervous System Repair in Drosophila. JOVE 73: e50306, 2013.
Gray R. Lyons, Ryan O. Andersen, Khadar Abdi, Won-Seok Song, and Chay T. Kuo. Cysteine Proteinase-1 and Cut Protein Isoform Control Dendritic Innervation of Two Distinct Sensory Fields by a Single Neuron. Cell Reports, March 13, 2014. DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.02.003.