Zebrafish could become genetics 'lab rat' of choice

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. In the post-genomic world, the lowly zebrafish may be king. Scientists at Purdue University have developed a technique that allows zebrafish to pass genetic modifications to its offspring. The discovery will lead to researchers being able to study genes and proteins in a less expensive way.

The two-inch, black-striped zebrafish known primarily as the last fish living in your kid's aquarium is quickly becoming famous in the scientific world as the best animal to use when studying genetics even better than the mouse.

"Because zebrafish are relatively inexpensive and easy to maintain compared to genetically modified mice, this discovery could greatly accelerate new genetic experiments in vertebrates," says Randy Woodson, director of Purdue's Office of Agricultural Research Programs.

These new experiments would provide information into Alzheimer's, heart disease, certain types of cancer and other diseases.

The zebrafish is an essential tool to a new branch of science called proteomics, also sometimes known as post-genomics. Proteomics refers to the study of an organism's proteins, just as genomics refers to the study of an organism's genetic material. Proteomics is a natural follow-up to the mapping of various organisms' genomes, including the human genome.

"With the human genome project theyre sequencing genes, and each of those genes causes the body to produce various proteins at different times," says Paul Collodi, associate professor of animal sciences at Purdue and primary investigator on the research project. "If you want to understand what the genes actually do, you have to study the function of the proteins they produce, and the zebrafish makes a nice model for that."

Scientists study proteins and gene function by disabling a single gene, and then raising clones of that test subject to see how they develop without the missing gene. Such experiments are called knockout experiments, because the gene is turned off, or

Contact: Steve Tally
Purdue University

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