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Zebrafish swim into drug development
Date:1/21/2010

By combining the tools of medicinal chemistry and zebrafish biology, a team of Vanderbilt investigators has identified compounds that may offer therapeutic leads for bone-related diseases and cancer.

The findings, reported in ACS Chemical Biology, support using zebrafish as a novel platform for drug development.

In 2007, Charles Hong, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues described using fish embryos to screen for compounds that interfere with signaling pathways involved in early development pathways known to play roles in a variety of disease processes. They discovered the compound "dorsomorphin" and demonstrated that it blocked BMP (bone morphogenetic protein) signaling, which has been implicated in anemia, inflammatory responses and bone-related disorders.

But in examining dorsomorphin further, the investigators found that it had other "off-target" effects it also blocked the VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) receptor and disrupted zebrafish blood vessel development, a process called angiogenesis.

"Off-target effects contribute to side effects and limit the therapeutic potential of small molecule signaling inhibitors," said Hong, assistant professor of Medicine and Pharmacology.

To find compounds that were more selective BMP inhibitors (didn't have the off-target effects), Hong and colleagues opted to use their zebrafish drug discovery screen as a drug development/optimization tool.

Craig Lindsley, Ph.D., director of Medicinal Chemistry for the Vanderbilt Program in Drug Discovery, Corey Hopkins, Ph.D., associate director, and their colleagues used the dorsomorphin "backbone" as a starting point to synthesize many different analogs subtly different dorsomorphin-like compounds.

Then Hong and his team tested these compounds for their effects on zebrafish embryonic development.

"We quickly discovered that the two effects of dorsomorphin could be separated some analogs only affected
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Contact: Leigh MacMillan
leigh.macmillan@vanderbilt.edu
615-322-4747
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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