According to The Scientist, the National Institute of Health will break ground in October on a 5,000 square foot zebrafish lab that will eventually house more than a half million zebrafish. The lab is scheduled to open sometime in 2005.
The zebrafish is growing in importance in a variety of medical research projects as it can be used as a substitute or supplement to mice in an increasing number of animal models, and in addition has a number of advantages that mice lack. Zebrafish are ideal, for example, for research into embryo development because the 200 or so eggs zebrafish lay are relatively large and develop outside the female’s body. Zebrafish are also easier to care for and less expensive to raise than mice.
Work is currently in progress to sequence the zebrafish genome and is expected to be completed by the end of 2005. There are also efforts underway to create gene knockout zebrafish in much the same way that gene knockout mice have been produced to study the effects of specific genes.
So far, animal models using zebrafish have been developed to study everything from deafness to leukemia, and that number will greatly increase in the coming years.
NIH to build zebrafish lab. Ted Agres, The Scientist, August 19, 2003.
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