Professor Stephen Ekker's research group at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, works closely with the Nicotine Dependence Center.
"We're working together to try to create better treatment options for patients suffering from tobacco dependence," says graduate student Margot Cousin. "There are some patients who receive these treatments and do well, but for other people they have almost no effect. There is a huge amount of variability in that treatment response. We're using the zebrafish model to look for novel candidate genes that might be involved in this process."
Dr. Ekker's lab has created hundreds of zebrafish lines with genetic mutations randomly scattered throughout the genome. Cousin uses a simple behavioral test to look at how the different mutant lines respond to nicotine exposure and drug treatment. Normal fish increase their swimming activity when treated with nicotine, she explains, but pre-treatment with varenicline usually blocks the nicotine response.
As she screens the genetically altered fish, she is looking for those that respond abnormally to either nicotine or the drug. Identification of the specific gene altered in each fish will provide clues to the pathways involved in nicotine addiction.
"We're looking to inform both the science as well as have ramifications for patient treatment. We can gain a lot of knowledge in a relatively short period of time using this as a model," Cousin says.
They hope to expand the available nicotine addiction treatment options to allow a more targeted approach and improve patient outcomes.
Variable Recovery After Chemotherapy
Anti-cancer treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy can have serious side effects due to the death of blood cells, including several types important in the immune system. Those cells can be replenished by regenerative c
|Contact: Phyllis Edelman|
Genetics Society of America