Are zebrafish good models?
There's a big difference between them and us!
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According to Dr Love, what makes zebrafish useful in the study of a disease like muscular dystrophy?
Stratford High School: I know that one of the diseases you’re interested in is muscular dystrophy. Obviously in that case the zebrafish is a really good model for the human condition?
Dr Love (Auckland University): The fish is primarily comprised of muscle, and so you think with that premise yes, it should be a good model. But the biological pathways between zebrafish and human are not exactly identical so the outcomes are sometimes not identical. So some of the outcomes we see in fish can help us understand the human disease.
It’s comparative biology, comparative genomics. What you would like to do is, I suppose, experiment on something as close to humans as possible. But what’s the closest? It’s human. The next thing is non human primates, then the next thing to that might be a mouse or a rat, and the next thing to that might be a zebrafish, and the next to that might be a nematode worm, and then a yeast, and then a bacteria, well which one are you going to use?
I was looking at a neuro-degenerative disorder a few years ago, and understanding the role of an inflammatory response and some of the proteins involved in the initial problems with this disease. It was interesting to learn that some of the early work on this was undertaken in the yeast, as a simple eukaryote. It was expressing proteins that were highly similar to the mutant protein in the neuro-degenerative disorder. So for me, biochemically, I could understand this protein that is expressed in humans, but there is a relative that is expressed in yeast. And I could understand the biology of this protein by looking at yeast.
But you would say to me that yeast hasn’t got a central nervous system, and you’d be on the money. It doesn’t. And that is no secret. But I can still understand something about the biology of this protein by looking at a simple organism. So when I look at the zebrafish, I know I can’t replicate everything, but I might be able to replicate some things.
- 27 November 2007
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- The University of Waikato