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Forget mice, now it is all about ... zebrafish

1,000 state-of-the-art aquariums to be opened in the basement of UCPH campus. Zebrafish are better than mice for research

Zebrafish are the new mice. Transgenically speaking. And the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen are opening up a new facility this Thursday to prove it.

There will be an introduction to the facility by Professor Søren-Peter Olesen and a key note talk by Dr Didier Stainier, a leading figure in the field of organogenesis. But why all the excitement over fish?

In the space of 24 hours, a zebrafish cell can grow into a beating heart.

“Zebrafish have many qualities that make them ideal model organisms for scientific research.” says Professor Elke Ober, a researcher at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. “They are amongst the most popular model organisms in the world, along with mice.”

To study Alzheimers, anxiety

The stripy fish share 70 per cent of their genes with humans, making them perfect for genetic manipulation. They have a pancreas, liver and intestines just like humans. Zebrafish are also more cost effective than mice.

“In the space of 24 hours, a zebrafish cell can grow into a beating heart. This incredibly fast growth rate is yet another reason why they are so popular with researchers. In comparison, it takes 8 and a half days for a mouse cell to grow into a beating heart,” says Professor Ober.

Zebrafish can be used to study a wide range diseases, from Alzheimer’s, cancer, anxiety disorders and even addiction.

Regenerate organs faster

The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences envision that the new zebrafish facility will act as a platform for collaboration between research groups in Denmark and across the globe. Professor Elke Ober’s group plans to use the facility to study another one of the zebrafish’s quirks: tissue regeneration.

“I am interested in using the zebrafish to study how organs, such as the liver and heart, develop and regenerate after injury,” says Professor Ober.

“Zebrafish’s amazing capacity for organ regeneration could be used for developing new models for drug testing, which is quite exciting”.

Automated food delivery system

The zebrafish facility consists of 1,000 state-of-the-art aquariums in the basement on North Campus, UCPH. The indoor climate is strictly controlled to ensure optimum conditions for the fish.

It includes an automated food delivery system that allows scientists to remotely feed the fish.

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