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Versatility of zebrafish research highlighted at international conference
Date:6/21/2012

MADISON, WI June 21, 2012 -- It's clear where the black-and-white striped zebrafish got its name, but less obvious at first glance is what zebrafish has to do with biomedical research. Amazingly, it has biological similarities to humans, which are making this small freshwater fish an increasingly popular model organism for studying vertebrate development, genetics, physiology, and mechanisms of disease.

The variety of presentations at the 2012 International Zebrafish Development and Genetics Conference, held June 20-24 in Madison, Wisconsin, showcase the breadth of research possible with the zebrafish. Many of these studies are aided by its rapid development, genetic malleability, and optical transparency at early stages that enables imaging of labeled cells within a whole, living embryo.

A small sampling of studies drawing on these strengths is highlighted here.

Watching the Birth and Spread of a Cancer

One of a tumor's most dangerous qualities is its ability to metastasize, or spread beyond its original site. The biological mechanisms driving metastasis are an active target of research, often focused on the role of cancer stem cells, which retain a relatively undeveloped state and the ability to multiply.

A research group at Massachusetts General Hospital headed by David Langenau, Ph.D., is advancing this understanding with a surprising twist using a zebrafish model of embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS), a rare human pediatric cancer of muscle.

The group, led by postdoctoral researcher Myron Ignatius, Ph.D., engineered the fish to contain fluorescent reporter molecules in their tumor cells. The cells fluoresce green when in the stem cell state, turn red as they begin to differentiate, and finally shine blue once they reach their final differentiated identity within the tumor.

As the fish begin to develop tumors starting at just 10 days old the researchers can take advantage of the trans
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Contact: Phyllis Edelman
pedelman@genetics-gsa.org
301-351-0896
Genetics Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

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