Zebrafish help OSU researchers gauge health risks from environmental chemicals

Article photo
Zebrafish in Tanguay's lab. These aquatic lab rats help researchers study effects of environmental chemicals. Lynn Ketchum photo

OSU is using zebrafish to discover the risks that some environmental chemicals, nanomaterials and pharmaceuticals may pose to human health. The tiny fish are transparent during development, mature rapidly and share about 80 percent of their genes with humans. This allows scientists to run many tests in a short time on a huge number of subjects.

They're hoping the fish will help them answer questions like “What are the implications of pesticide exposure on childhood development?”  “Can diseases like autism be caused by environmental exposure to chemicals during early development?" and "Can we use information from zebrafish to help inventors and manufacturers make better and safer consumer products?"

For example, a recent study with zebrafish, led by molecular toxicologist Robert Tanguay, suggests that benzopyrene, a cancer-causing chemical produced through combustion of a wide variety of fuels, also impairs learning and memory.

Tanguay and his team are also studying how the fish regenerate tissue—raising the possibility that doctors might one day be able to use that knowledge to replace or repair injured tissues in patients.

Watch OSU’s zebrafish swim on a "treadmill" in this video. Watch a robotic arm conduct chemical tests on the fish in this video.

Source: Robert Tanguay, director of OSU’s Sinnhuber Aquatic Research Laboratory.

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