Laboratory of Development and Disease Models in Zebrafish

The Zebrafish model
The fundamental question of how different populations form within an embryo has until now, been extremely difficult to address in conventional systems purely due to logistical constraints; mammalian embryos develop in- utero, and direct visual observation of living muscle is all but impossible. In contrast, the zebrafish develops ex-utero and is optically clear during the embryonic and juvenile stages- yielding a unique possibility to examine development in vivo.

Techniques
Projects will involve developmental and molecular biology, incorporating modern research techniques (in-situ hybridisation, confocal and electron microscopy, PCR, bioinformatics, fish husbandry, transgenic fish technology, immuno-histochemistry, histology, in-vivo cell lineage tracking) and utilising the zebrafish model system.

Experimental aims
The overall aim of our research is to utilise the power of the zebrafish as a model vertebrate to understand normal development and to find potential cures of human disorders. Current projects include but are not limited to:

  1. Motor Neuron Disease – creating and curing fish models of human motor neuron disorders, in particular Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
  2. Muscle and Limb/Fin Development and Evolution – Initiation, specification and control of vertebrate limb and muscle development.

Outcomes
The long-term outcome of this work will enhance our understanding of limb formation and how stem cell-driven muscle formation and repair occurs in vertebrate embryos. This knowledge will have profound implications for our understanding of the pathology and treatment of limb developmental defects and degenerative muscle disease.

zebrasfish image

Major Funding

2012-2015
Investigating the pathogenesis of motor neuron disease using zebrafish models
Cole N, Nicholson G, Blair I, Laird A
NHMRC Project Grants ($419,925 over 3 years)