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Zebrafish may help speed drug discovery
Date:1/17/2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. Tiny zebrafish just may give scientists one solution to information overload in the search for new drugs therapies.

High throughput screening, which uses robotics and computers to rapidly screen drugs, genes or proteins, to identify, for example, compounds that are best at destroying cancer or restoring insulin-producing cells. The technology has both revolutionized and stymied research, said Dr. Jeffrey Mumm, biologist in the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University.

While the decade-old technology can screen 100,000 compounds in a day, there is no efficient next step for whittling to a manageable number the resulting say, 2,500 compounds that on first blush appear to have potential. Consequently, drug discovery has actually stalled, creating a scientific "indigestion," Mumm said. Drug failure rates and discovery costs, on the other hand, have escalated.

"The next best thing to do is probably take all the compounds and put them into an animal model that mimics the disease you are trying to cure but nobody has that kind of budget or would know where to start with that number of candidates," Mumm said.

One solution is pairing zebrafish with reporter-based assays that make certain parts glow, according to Mumm's research published in the journal PLoS ONE. He calls it Automated Reporter Quantification.

"It's a way to cut to the chase rather than having to make educated guess about which of the 2,500 compounds are really of interest," said Mumm. Zebrafish, which start out as single cell organisms that are fully functioning by day four, already are an invaluable research model for a wide variety of diseases, such as Mumm's efforts to regenerate cells in the face of degenerative diseases of the eyes or pancreas.

To produce a model of type 1 diabetes, for example, he uses a single drug to destroy insulin-producing cells; 24 hours later, he knows those cells are gone because the glow is gon
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@georgiahealth.edu
706-721-4421
Georgia Health Sciences University
Source:Eurekalert  

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