Using Zebrafish for clues about human vision loss
Genetically modified Zebrafish
Inherited retinal degenerations, including retinitis pigmentosa (RP), destroy rod photoreceptor cells, which work with nerve cells to process visual information. Approximately 100,000 people in the United States are affected by RP, which can lead to vision loss and blindness. One of the National Eye Institute’s goals for its current 5-year program is to identify the genes involved in both inherited and retinal degenerative diseases (including RP), determine how these mutations occur, and determine if this disease can be treated. (National Eye Institute. US National Institutes of Health).
Innovations and Advantages
Zebrafish, the popular aquarium fish known for its beautiful colors and ease of care, are becoming model organisms for studying diseases in higher animals, including humans. Dr. Dowling’s genetically modified Zebrafish provides eye disease researchers with several scientific advantages over previous generations. It has a single, modified, stable gene exclusively in their rod photoreceptors. Unlike previous studies with Zebrafish, which passed on the modified gene at very low rates, this gene remains the same throughout multiple generations of the fish, can be detected in larvae and living fish, and can be seen in frozen sections using microscopy without antibody staining. With this genetic stability and visibility, researchers can more readily study specific genetic mutations, assess the impact that chemicals or drugs have on the photoreceptors, study the visual system development, and better understand the degeneration process.
Transgenic expression of a GFP-rhodopsin COOH-terminal fusion protein in zebrafish rod photoreceptors. Visual Neuroscience (2002), 19, 257–264
Dowling, John E.
Perkins, Brian D.
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Reference Harvard Case #2212