Pursuing Cures for Heart Defects and Other Disorders
Operated by the Office of Animal Care, Seattle Children’s zebrafish aquatics facility is helping researchers pursue advanced therapies that repair congenital heart defects and other disorders – without invasive surgery or its complications. The state-of-the-art, 2,000 square-foot facility contains the latest research amenities, including space for more than 3,000 tanks and red-tinted lighting that allows researchers to work at any time of day without interrupting fish breeding cycles.
Extraordinary Zebrafish Offer Key Insights
The minnow-sized zebrafish are ideally suited for the center’s research, in part because of their extraordinary ability to regenerate damaged or defective tissue. For example, if part of a zebrafish’s heart is removed, it will grow back and be fully functional in a matter of weeks.
Zebrafish have a number of other valuable research attributes, including:
- Their embryos are transparent and develop outside the mother, allowing researchers to closely monitor their development.
- They absorb substances through the water they swim in, making it easy to administer drugs and monitor their effects.
- They spawn every four to seven days and produce large numbers of offspring, enabling researchers to follow multiple generations over a relatively short time period.
Advancing Regenerative Medicine
Studying these fish will give Dr. Mark Majesky and other Seattle Children’s researchers important insights into the molecular and genetic mechanisms that govern regeneration. In turn, these insights will advance our goal of developing innovative therapies that instruct tissues and organs to repair themselves – therapies that could render certain heart surgeries and other invasive procedures obsolete.