Tiny tropical fish are helping scientists understand human development and disease, from birth defects and cancer to muscle and nerve disorders.
Contributing to this effort, Washington University is now home to one of the largest zebrafish facilities in the world. And with robotic feeding and cleaning systems, it is the world’s most modern, says Lilianna Solnica-Krezel, PhD, professor and head of developmental biology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The Department of Developmental Biology dedicated its new Zebrafish Facility with a daylong symposium on May 27, 2011, in the Farrell Learning and Teaching Center. Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical afairs and dean of the School of Medicine, delivered opening remarks. Speakers from top universities, including Stanford, Harvard and Vanderbilt highlighted research into zebrafish cell signaling, nervous system and craniofacial development.
A common type of minnow, the zebrafish is popular in both scientific research and home aquariums. Zebrafish embryos are transparent and develop outside the body, making them useful for observing growth and development.
Solnica-Krezel says she hopes the facility also will help recruit new researchers. According to Kelly R. Monk, PhD, assistant professor of developmental biology, the zebrafish facility was one of the things that attracted her to Washington University.
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