The Aquatics Core at the University of Washington Institute for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine was originally planned and designed in 2006 as part of the laboratory of Institute Founding Director Dr. Randall T. Moon. The Aquatics Core is now an integral part of the Institute, exploring cutting-edge developmental biology and regeneration in the zebrafish, working with the potential of its heart, spinal cord, brain, and fins.

Why Zebrafish are important

The zebrafish, Danio rerio, is a small tropical freshwater fish from the family Cyprinidae, of the order Cypriniformes. Their natural habitat is India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Myanmar. Zebrafish, like humans, have two eyes, a mouth, a brain, muscles, blood, bones, and teeth. Not only do we share many of the same organs, including a stomach and a heart, but 70 percent of human genes are also found in zebrafish.

Unlike humans, however, zebrafish have the ability to regenerate organs and intricate body parts containing different types of cells. If a zebrafish loses a piece of its tail fin, it grows back within a week. The question of how these fish re-grow missing tails and other appendages led researchers to explore whether people might have untapped regenerative powers hidden in their genes.

“People are constantly renewing blood components, skeletal muscles and skin. We can regenerate liver tissue and repair minor injuries to bone, muscle, the tips of our toes and fingers, and the corneas of our eyes. Finding out more about the remarkable ability of amphibians and fish to re-grow complex parts might provide the information necessary to create treatments for people whose hearts, spinal cords, eyes or arms and legs have been badly hurt.” *

“The ability to regenerate body parts such as those that are damaged by injury or disease,” says Dr. Randall Moon, “involves creating cells that can take any number of new roles. This can be done by re-programming cells that already have a given function or by activating resident stem cells.”

The use of zebrafish in this work is gaining traction worldwide, and the zebrafish is expected to become a standard for use in research. Female zebrafish can spawn weekly, all year long, and produce several hundred eggs in each clutch. Zebrafish eggs are relatively transparent, a characteristic that make it a very desirable model organism for developmental biology studies. The zebrafish develops quickly, with precursors to all major organs developing within 36 hours post-fertilization. Eggs hatch within 48-72 hours post-fertilization. Within five days of fertilization, larvae display food seeking and avoidance behaviors. The development time of zebrafish is approximately 3-4 months, which is convenient for selection experiments.

* UW News, 12.26.06 How does a zebrafish grow a new tail? The answer may help treat human injuries. Leila Gray

Former Aquatics Core Director Jeanot Muster worked with the firm of Perkins+Will to design the facility. He selected the housing system and equipment, and continues to manage the facility’s personnel, equipment, and standard operating procedures.

The ISCRM Aquatics Core is a state-of-the-art facility providing all of the tools needed to perform outstanding research, contained within a suite of rooms located deep under the SLU campus. The Aquatics Core is capable of housing up to 54,000 adult fish and 16,000 juvenile fish. In addition to standard housing and quarantine rooms, we have a surgical/injection suite, as well as confocal, mutagenesis, screening, and electrophysiology rooms packed with high end tools including a new Nikon stereoscope with multiple fluorescent options, a laser needle puller, qrtPCR, and fish cell incubators. All of this equipment, as well as training, is available to researchers.



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