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What's in a name? Broadening the biological lexicon to bolster translational research
Date:3/9/2011

arch with zebrafish. She uses zebrafish as a something of a test tube in which to study human mental health disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism. Knowing full well that zebrafish don't get autism, Sive nonetheless has employed the fish successfully as tools because she also knows that mental health risk genes in humans have homologs in zebrafish and that these genes are active during brain development. Because of this, Sive and her lab are able to conduct loss-of-function studies on these genes, examine what happens to the developing brain, and screen for chemicals that can alter the genes' activity. Such work could help identify potential therapeutic targets.

Having heard Sive discuss this 'tool-model' construct several years ago, Vivian Siegel, editor of Disease Models & Mechanisms, encouraged Sive to share it with the scientific community at large.

"She did exactly what I was hoping she would do." Siegel says of Sive's editorial. "We wanted to emphasize that you can find utility without the disease being recapitulated, as long as you know the limitations of the system."

Both Sive and Siegel, whose journal focuses on publishing basic research with translational impact, believe increased but judicious adoption of the term 'tool' should encourage researchers to consider new uses for their systems of choice, help educate grant reviewers evaluating related applications, and ultimately lead to greater understanding of human disorders.

"If you adhere strictly to the term 'model', you can be misled by your own system," says Siegel. "This approach has a lot of benefits. My hope is that by publishing this in Disease Models & Mechanisms, it reaches out to people interested in translational research, and lets others know that they needn't be so dismissive of certain aspects of looking at organisms. This offers a new way to help recognize the potential contributions of organisms that aren't necess
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Contact: Nicole Giese
giese@wi.mit.edu
617-258-6851
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
Source:Eurekalert

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