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Zebrafish research aides potential cancer detection and treatment

By Shane Graber - Posted May 19, 2011 10:00 AM
Using transgenic Zebrafish, researchers from the University of Utah's Huntsman Cancer Institute have shown that they can visualize and target leukemia, a type of cancer. In this particular study they show how Zebrafish with green fluorescent white blood cells can be made to fluoresce where leukemia has begun to affect their body.
Zebrafish research aides potential cancer detection and treatment

Zebrafish withtout (left) and with T-cell leukemia (right).

Leukemia is a type of cancer that causes an unusually high concentration of white blood cells in the body. In this particular study researchers targeted a leukemia called "T-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia" (T-ALL for short), which is the most common type of leukemia found in children.  It's characterized by a very quick population explosion of immature white blood cells in the body and if left untreated can be quickly fatal (in as short as a few weeks).

Zebrafish, interestingly enough, can also contract T-ALL.  What scientists did was to specifically breed an aggressive form of T-ALL into zebrafish using a genetic technique called serial transplantation.  Over the course of multiple generations and transplantations, T-ALL became more and more severe in the zebrafish.  These particular zebrafish were also genetically modified so that their white blood cells would fluoresce green (pictured above).  What this allowed researchers to do was to visualize the severity of T-ALL in a given fish and then search for unique genetic signatures of the disease in that particular fish.

The ultimate goal of this research was to find new genetic signatures for T-ALL and then apply this knowledge to bone marrow biopsies of infected patients.  This would then help doctors tailor the treatment regime with the specific form of T-ALL found in a given patient.

(via The Salt Lake Tribune)

Author: Shane Graber
Location: Indiana

Shane has kept saltwater tanks for the last 12 years, is a research scientist, lives in northern Indiana, and is a proud Advanced Aquarist staffer.


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