How can zebrafish development help with organ transplant? Dr. Rachel Brewster and her lab are working on finding out that answer. Zebrafish can place their development on hold--like a sort of "pause button"--for up to 50 hours in order to survive in oxygen-deprived environments. Understanding the ability of zebrafish to survive without oxygen can help us better understand how organs can be maintained while donors and precipitants are found.
Supported by an Idea Discovery Grant from the Department of Defense, the lab's research can help build the foundation for how the DoD can aid injured military personal.
So far, the lab has found that younger zebrafish embryo's "arrest faster," meaning that they pause development more rapidly, and so they are more likely to survive. The group hopes to better understand this process perhaps by identifying small molecules in the zebrafish whose concentration changes rapidly when oxygen is removed and that then slow down or stop the processes of development. Identifying these molecules, the lab believes, is the key to understanding how the "pause button" process works.
Dr. Brewster is very hopeful about her and her lab's early findings. With the work of graduate and undergraduate students alike, the work shows great promise!