The freshwater zebrafish is an important and affordable lab model used in biomedical research around the world and now a small zebrafish facility has been established at the university.
The fish reside in a comfortable 25 degree room in a specially-designed tank heated to 28 degrees. Dr Glenn Jacobson from the School of Pharmacy set up the facility after seeing the wide variety of research possibilities the zebrafish offered in the area of drug development.
"The important thing is the optical clarity of the embryo and larvae used for our experiments; you're able to monitor various aspects of the animals' development under a microscope which isn't possible with mammals."
"They are also remarkably similar to humans in their cardiovascular and neuro-muscular development," Dr Jacobson said.
"The good thing is from an ethics perspective the embryos are used and euthanised before they have any sensory perception of pain."
"These fish level the research playing field, enabling us to do internationally competitive research as well as collaborate with researchers at other institutions."
Dr Jacobson is already conducting experiments into the effects of a class of asthma drugs (beta2-agonists) on heart physiology and muscle function with a view to further investigations of other drug classes relating to cancer and blood vessel growth in tumours.
"The fish can regenerate their hearts after damage, so if you could work out how they did that and whether existing drugs have a positive effect on this process, you could potentially do the same for humans."
Dr Jacobson is happy for other researchers to approach him about using the zebrafish facility.
The zebrafish facility is funded by the Faculty of Health Science, UTAS Research Enhancement Grants Scheme and the School of Pharmacy.
Story by Cherie Cooper
Authorised by the Associate Head, Pharmacy
19 November, 2012