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To view the original video and read the News Release, please go to http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/pages/032112-birth-defects.aspx

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Zebrafish: A Key to Understanding Human Development

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Dr. Alan Guttmacher: We seek to ensure that all people are born healthy and that they live optimal lives, that they remain healthy.
  Dr. Brant Weinstein: We study how blood vessels form, what makes them develop.
  Dr. Harry Burgess: …to understanding better how the brain stem normally contributes to behavior will allow us to ask questions about where to look.
  Dr. Lorette Javois: The biggest advance over the last decade is not only in what we know about the genomes of the different organisms, but the ways in which we can manipulate those genomes.

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A 10,000 square foot zebrafish facility at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, is jointly operated by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Human Genome Research Institute.

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Dr. Alan Guttmacher on camera

Alan Guttmacher, MD, Director, NICHD

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Dr. Guttmacher: Zebrafish have a real advantage compared to humans or mice or many mammals in that the development happens so quickly. Development that in a human might take weeks or even months to occur, occurs in zebrafish over just a couple of days. So everything is speeded up. And we can watch things in real time much more easily.

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Value of Biomedical Research

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Dr. Guttmacher on camera


Scene of zebrafish

Dr. Guttmacher: And the wonderful thing about fish is, in terms of studying development, is it of course, fish deposit their eggs in the water.  And therefore when the eggs are fertilized, embryonic and fetal development occurs not inside the mother where it's hard to see.

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Value to the Study of the Circulatory System

 

Dr. Brant Weinstein on camera

Brant Weinstein, Director of the Program in Genomics of Differentiation, NICHD

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Dr. Weinstein: You can see every organ. You can see the entire brain, the guts, anything that you can imagine. You can just simply look through a microscope and see all of this really exquisite detail. And being able to do that means that you can very easily just take a fish or hundreds of fish or a thousand of fish and look through them and try to find the ones that have a particular sort of defect you're looking for.

Dr. Weinstein on camera

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Dr. Weinstein: And by uncovering these same defects in fish we can then do experimental studies on them which are not possible to do in humans. Similarly you can also do large scale chemical screenings. And this is a way to basically uncover small molecules or compounds, essentially, possible future drugs that can be used to have particular beneficial effects such as stopping blood vessels from growing, or promoting blood vessel growth.

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Value of the Study of Neurology

 

Dr. Harry Burgess on camera

Harry Burgess, Tenure Track Investigator, Head of the Unit on Behavioral Neurogenetics in the Program of Genomics of Differentiation

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Dr. Burgess: And so in newborn humans it's really all about the brain stem with these kind of hard wired mechanisms for allowing babies to control their behavior-- their simple behaviors-- in the appropriate fashion. So the same is true in zebrafish, zebrafish have a very sophisticated brain stem. And so we can use the zebrafish to explore what kinds of behaviors can be controlled by the brain stem.

Dr. Burgess on camera

Scene of Zebrafish Facility

Dr. Burgess: This is the sort of project with a big up front investment in making all of these fish. But I think once we have the fish it goes pretty quickly, I think. So I hope in a year we'll really be able to demonstrate that using these fish can give us very unique insights into the way that the brain controls behavior.

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Value to all the National Institute of Health

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Dr. Lorette Javois on camera

Lorette Javois, Program Officer Developmental Biology, Genetics, and Teratology Branch, NICHD

Dr. Javois: So we have an effort here at NIH across the whole of the NIH to coordinate our funding efforts for research in this area, a Trans-NIH Zebrafish Coordinating Committee.

Dr. Javois on camera

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Scene of Zebrafish Facility

Dr. Javois: There's been a very concerted effort over the last decade to develop these tools to further the research and NIH across institutes has worked very strongly in this area to move it forward. This community, the zebrafish research community, has perhaps been one of the better communities at interacting with NIH staff to help coordinate this effort.

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The facility can accommodate 19,000 tanks which hold more than 100,000 zebrafish.

 

Dr. Guttmacher on camera

Dr. Guttmacher: To answer the 'all' questions that are the most challenging and the most important ones in science today requires a facility of this size with these many fish available to really excellent scientists. It's an incredible resource.

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www.nichd.nih.gov

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Last Updated Date: 07/31/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 07/31/2012
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