Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Transparent fish to make human biology clearer

07.02.2008
Researchers can watch cancer spread and bone marrow engraft

Zebrafish are genetically similar to humans and are good models for human biology and disease. Now, researchers at Children's Hospital Boston have created a zebrafish that is transparent throughout its life. The new fish allows scientists to directly view its internal organs, and observe processes like tumor metastasis and blood production after bone-marrow transplant in a living organism.


Caption: The transparent zebrafish.
Credit: Richard Whtie, MD, PhD

The fish, described in the February 7 issue of Cell Stem Cell, was created by Richard White, MD, PhD, a clinical fellow in the Stem Cell Program at Children's, with others in the laboratory of Leonard Zon, PhD.

The classic method for studying human diseases in animals is to allow the animal to get the disease, kill and dissect the animal, then ask, "what happened?" But in cancer and other fast-changing processes that traverse the body, this method is bound to miss something. "It's like taking a photograph when you need a video," says White, also an instructor of medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Zebrafish embryos have enabled researchers to study disease in live organisms, since they are transparent. But zebrafish adults are opaque. "Everything after four weeks has been invisible to us," says White.

White's first experiment on the zebrafish examined how a cancer spreads. "The process by which a tumor goes from being localized to widespread and ultimately fatal is the most vexing problem that oncologists face," says White. "We don't know why cancer cells decide to move away from their primary site to other parts in the body."

White created a fluorescent melanoma tumor in the transparent fish's abdominal cavity. Viewing the fish under a microscope, White saw the cancer cells begin to spread within five days. He even saw individual cells metastasize, something that has not been observed, so readily and in real-time, in a living organism.

The spreading melanoma cells appeared to "home" to the skin after leaving the abdominal cavity. "This told us that when tumor cells spread to other parts in the body, they don't do it randomly," says White. "They know where to go."

White plans to study tumor cell homing, then look for ways to modify the tumor cells or cells of the host so that the spreading cells never find their new location.

The fish may also answer questions about stem cell transplants. While transplants of blood-forming stem cells help cancer patients rebuild healthy blood, some transplants don't "take," for reasons that are unknown. Scientists have lacked a full understanding what steps blood stem cells must take to do their job, says White.

White showed the process is observable in the fish. He first irradiated a transparent fish's bone marrow, then transplanted fluorescent blood-forming stem cells from another zebrafish. By four weeks, the fluorescent stem cells had visibly migrated and grown in the fish's bone marrow, which is in the kidney. Even individual stem cells were visible, something researchers haven't easily observed in a living organism, White says.

By studying how the stem cells embed and build blood in the fish, scientists can look for ways to help patients rebuild their blood faster. Drugs and genes could be tested in the living fish, with direct observation of results, White says.

White created the transparent fish simply by mating two existing zebrafish breeds. Zebrafish have three pigments in their skin—reflective, black, and yellow. White mated a breed that lacks reflective pigment, called "roy orbison," with one that lacks black pigment, called "nacre." The offspring had only yellow pigment in their skin, essentially looking clear. White named the new breed "casper."

The fish's brain, heart, and digestive tract are also visible, allowing researchers to study genetic defects of these organs from early embryonic development through adulthood. White hopes this tool will provide insight into how mutated genes cause diseases ranging from Alzheimer's disease to inflammatory bowel disease.

"What happens in a living organism is different than what happens in a dish," White says.

Elizabeth Andrews | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.childrenshospital.org/newsroom

Further reports about: Pigment Stem Transparent White organism spread stem cells transplant

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

nachricht New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>