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$2.7 million grant to support creation of virtual zebrafish atlas

HERSHEY, PA-An inch-long tropical fish will enjoy improved global exposure thanks to a five-year, $2.7 million grant from the National Center for Research Resources-National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded to Keith Cheng, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology, Penn State College of Medicine.

The grant will support the creation of a virtual zebrafish microanatomy atlas for the international research community. The computer-based atlas, which will be integrated into the Web site of the Zebrafish Information Network (ZFIN, http://www.zfin.org), will give researchers around the world access to thousands of high-resolution files that will show zebrafish microanatomy at magnifications determined by the user, and will provide three-dimensional images of body structures such as organs.

"There has been phenomenal growth in the zebrafish research community due to the zebrafish's compelling experimental characteristics and its capacity to model human disease," said Cheng, who is working with co-investigator Stephen Moorman, Ph.D., of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Medical School on the atlas. "This grant grew out of experiments in my laboratory a decade ago. The atlas will make it possible for us to share our detailed zebrafish anatomy, from any point in its lifespan, with researchers around the globe. This data-sharing will speed the pace of discovery for a number of human diseases."

The atlas will allow scientists to access images of the anatomy of healthy zebrafish to compare to the zebrafish used in their studies of gene functions and disease. The comparisons to the images of healthy zebrafish will allow investigators to quickly detail the anatomical abnormalities associated with a variable manipulated in their experiments.

The zebrafish, a common home-aquarium fish, has proven to be a good model for a variety of human biological processes and diseases. Zebrafish have a rapidly developing,
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Contact: Valerie Gliem
vgliem@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
21-Sep-2004


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