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Zebrafish may hold key to improved cancer research

s date back several decades, and the university first developed the rainbow trout as a useful model for cancer research. Those studies, among others, helped to determine that aflatoxin contaminants which can be found in some foods are a powerful carcinogen ?and are still a major cause of liver cancer in some developing nations.

Zebrafish, however, are a fascinating species because the fish embryos are literally transparent and can be directly observed at early developmental stages better than almost any other animal species. They had been used for years in studying everything from the immune system to cardiovascular disease and skeletal development.

In the mid-1990s, OSU researchers began the use of zebrafish in cancer research.

OSU scientists conducted studies on a wide variety of carcinogens and a complete histologic examination of all major organs, the first work of that type. In recent years collaboration has also been extensive with colleagues at the University of Oregon, where the federally funded Zebrafish International Resource Center archives, propagates and distributes the many mutant lines of zebrafish now developed worldwide to aid research on specific genes in development and disease.

This research has proven that the mechanism of cancer prevention in fish is remarkably similar to that of humans, including the genes involved.

"Zebrafish are now changing the face of cancer research," Spitsbergen said. "They can be managed in a laboratory almost anywhere, they reproduce quickly, lend themselves well to genetic manipulation, can efficiently test high numbers of possible drug therapies, and might tell you in three months what it would take two years to find out with other animal models."

"This low cost, efficient research should speed up drug development, save many millions of dollars and help lead to new cancer therapies." Using zebrafish, OSU has extensively studied two groups of carcinogens, polyaromatic h
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Source:Oregon State University


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