Zebrafish study may help discern how to regenerate cells lost in Parkinson’s, diabetes

March 18th, 2008 - 6:02 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, March 18 (ANI): An Indian origin researcher and her scientist husband at the Medical College of Georgia are studying the uncanny ability of the zebrafish to regenerate almost all kinds of cells, with a view to understanding how the fish regenerates particular cells that are lost in diseases like Parkinson’s and diabetes.
What we are pinning everything on is the idea that humans also have this capacity, but its sort of locked up, says Dr. Jeff S. Mumm, biologist at the Medical College of Georgia and husband of Dr. Meera Saxena.
The researcher duo has founded a company called Luminomics, Inc. to help fellow scientists unlock that capacity.
The forefront of medicine is not what humans are limited to, but what biology can do. This little fish is telling us what biology is capable of. With the same general set of genetic tools, these animals can do something we cant: regenerate lost cells and tissues. Our job is to figure out which tools in which combination or sequence afford fish this capacity, then apply this knowledge toward the creation of regenerative therapies for humans, says Dr. Mumm.
If you have a cell type in your body that you lose, a lot of times, the end result is a particular degenerative disease state. So if you lose dopaminergic neurons in your brain, you end up with Parkinsons. If you lose the insulin-producing cells of your pancreas, you begin to develop diabetes. There are literally hundreds of degenerative diseases. Still very little is known about how individual cell types are regenerated,” adds Dr. Mumm.
While most scientists have tried to figure out how to re-grow whole organs or appendages, Dr. Mumm says that his study is different in the sense it is focussed on the fish’s ability to regenerate a particular type of cell.
What we wanted to go after was a much more clinically relevant disease model where we target a particular cell type that we know has ramifications for our health, he says.
Dr. Mumm has developed a way to light up cells of interest, such as the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. During the process, they destroy the cells, and then watch how their regeneration occurs, something that is indicated by the reemergence of the light.
The same fluorescent protein that illuminates the cells links them to an enzyme, nitroreductase, which can kill them when a particular prodrug also is introduced.
If you know the cell type involved in a disease, we can use this system to model it. If we want to go after a particular muscular dystrophy, we express it in muscle. If we want to go after Parkinsons, we express it in the dopaminergic neuron population, Dr. Mumm says.
What the system we have developed does is provide us inroads to understanding the genetics and chemicals that can modify the genetics. There may be drugs out there that can help us find what we can do, not what we normally do, he adds.
Given the much of commonality between humans and zebrafish, it is believed that this research may yield several significant findings. (ANI)

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