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QU paves the way in research through Zebrafish | Qatar University

QU paves the way in research through Zebrafish


Zebrafish is a small tropical fish native to Southeast Asia. Over the last few decades, this unsuspecting fish has proven itself to actually be very useful in the latest research, specifically in human disease development such as developmental biology, cancer, toxicology, genetic disorders, neuronal disorders, diabetes and cardiovascular research.
Over the last decade, studies have shown that zebrafish encompass various advantages that make it an important scientific tool. Such advantages include low experimental cost, transparent embryos, external development and a high fecundity making them suitable for large-scale genetic screening. Being a vertebrate model, zebrafish have been shown to exhibit physiological responses that are similar to humans such as after exposure to medicinal drugs including hormones, cancer drugs and environment pollutants including pesticides and heavy metals.
In 2015 Qatar University (QU) set up a zebrafish facility at the Biomedical Research Center in collaboration with the Qatar Cardiovascular Research Centre. Since the establishment of the zebrafish facility in Qatar, there has been an increasing interest from research institutions in Qatar to use this model. QU’s Biomedical Research Center organized a 5-day conference and workshop aptly entitled “Current and Emerging Trends in Zebrafish Research,” which involved both theoretical lectures from renowned experts in the field as well as hands-on practical sessions to train interested researchers.
The aim of the program held in QU was to focus on the utilization of the zebrafish model in a variety of research investigations, and to introduce this relatively new animal model to students, academicians, researchers and health care practitioners in the nation. The workshop also provided a platform for establishing new collaborations.
The conference and workshop hosts a slew of researchers, from QU, Qatar and beyond who have used the zebrafish model to break new ground in research in various ways.
Director of the Department of Developmental Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research, Didier Stainier, PhD was in Qatar to speak on the topic. Dr Didier initiated studies on zebrafish cardiac development, he spent close to 20 years at the University of California San Francisco, expanding his research to investigate questions of cell differentiation, tissue morphogenesis, organ homeostasis and function, as well as organ regeneration, in the zebrafish cardiovascular system and endodermal organs. In 2012, he moved to the Max Planck Institute where he continues to utilize both forward and reverse genetic approaches to investigate cellular and molecular mechanisms of developmental processes during vertebrate organ formation, in both zebrafish and mouse.
Department of Medicine at the University of Cambridge, Elisabeth Busch-Nentwich, PhD, who also spoke at the event, participated in one of the large forward mutagenesis screens in zebrafish with a focus on inner ear function. Her current work focuses on integrating morphological and molecular phenotyping approaches in mouse and zebrafish to elucidate gene-regulatory events underlying development and disease.
Speakers from Qatar include Associate Professor of Biomedical Science at QU, Dr Gheyath Nasrallah who has been working in the zebrafish facility since its establishment, runs what is considered a multidisciplinary service lab that supports researchers from inside and outside QU to conduct their experimental works. Dr Nasrallah’s lab exploited the zebrafish embryo model to investigate toxicity of some novel chemical compounds and nanoparticles that potentially have bioapplications.