Zebrafish helping GHSU scientist make quicker drug discoveries

By: Trishna Begam Email
By: Trishna Begam Email

One researcher at GHSU is using zebrafish to help him find possible cures. (WRDW-TV / Jan. 19, 2012)

News 12 This Morning / Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- In a room filled with aquariums, tiny freshwater fish breed and grow all in the name of research.

"The fish make it simpler," explained Dr. Jeff Mumm, a biologist at Georgia Health Sciences University.

Mumm uses high-throughput screening to find new drugs. The robotic machines are able to find thousands of possible hits, which can all turn into potential drug therapies one day.

"You spend all that time generating leads and 90 percent of them fail on some level," he said. "That is a huge amount of investment for ultimate failure."

The information overload can make costs skyrocket, so Mumm started using zebrafish to narrow down the field.

"We take advantage of that transparency and monitor that process," he said.

You can also see right through the fish. The zebrafish will glow when a certain compound is destroyed. It's what researchers call automated reporter quantification and GHSU is the first university to use the fish to whittle down the results.

"Trying to identify chemicals that really are bona fide for regeneration," Mumm explained.

The zebrafish are small enough to fit hundreds into a dish at a time. If they come back glowing, it's a sign and researchers can identify chemicals that work within a living creature.

"You cut to the chase at the beginning and get animals involved in primary screening," Mumm said.

It cuts down on the cost because these fish are easier to acquire and maintain.

"We are very interested in how to cure blindness by determining how photo receptors can be regenerated," Mumm added.

Just as fast as the fish swim away, Mumm and his team are constantly looking to the next set of results because the next blockbuster drug to treat diabetes or even Alzheimer could be developed in their lab.

The fish are very inexpensive to acquire. A batch of eggs runs Mumm and his team about $100.

Scientists all over the GHSU campus have access to research on the zebrafish as well.

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