Fluorescent Fish May Help Scientists Better Understand Diabetes

Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London have discovered a new way of detecting zinc in zebra fish. This discovery may help scientists further understand certain diseases like type 2 diabetes as well as Alzheimer’s and even prostate cancer. The results of the study was reported at the Sixth International Symposium on Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry, held in Brighton last July 3.

Zinc is commonly found in the body and is known to be involved in various metabolic pathways that also affect the functions of the brain and the immune system, sexual development and reproduction. It is also a key element that is used to treat a wide range of diseases. Although it is not entirely known whether zinc is a direct cause of a disease or it if may have certain effects on its development or progression, scientists have a keen interest in trying to develop an effective means to detect zinc in the body. So far, there have been few scientists that have been working to understand how zinc works in whole organisms.

In the said study, the team composed of Professor Mike Watkinson, Dr Stephen Goldup and Dr Caroline Brennan, all of whom are members of Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, looked into developing a sensor to detect zinc in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Zebrafish was chosen due to their fast development, which allowed the fish to be grown outside of its mother’s body. Not only that, their embryos are also transparent, giving the scientists a means to clearly observe their organs.

The scientists have designed a sensor that switched on fluorescence in zebrafish when zinc is detected. “Our probe is able to visualize zinc in various parts of the fish embryos, including the pancreas and we are excited that we can develop the technology further to help understand the role of zinc in the development of important disease like Type 2 Diabetes,” says Prof. Watkinson.

The researchers used a method known as “click” chemistry, which was designed in order to generate substances quickly and reliably by means of joining small units together. The sensor that was developed proved to be more effective in identifying zinc than other anions like iron or copper. The researchers are hoping that this new technology may be used by other scientists in other important fields as it gets further developed.

Source: Queen Mary, University of London (2011, July 4). Zinc and the zebrafish: Fluorescent fish could hold key to understanding diabetes and other diseases. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 14, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2011/07/110703132538.htm


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