Zebra Fish Help in BSE Fight

CANADA - The zebra fish could be the latest piece in the jigsaw in the fight against BSE and chronic wasting disease.
calendar icon 22 December 2008
clock icon 1 minute read

The fish are being used in the labs at the Alberta Prion Research Institute as fruit flies and mice are used in other labs.

Dr Ted Allison is using them help define the normal role of the prion protein in a healthy brain and compare that to what the protein is doing in a diseased brain according to a report in Troy Media.

"Because zebra fish have a lot of advantages as a model, we’re able to modify the genes easily. We’re able to knock down gene expression or make transgenic fish genes to increase expression. This means we can alter proteins that we expect to be related to prion protein and interact with prion protein," he said.

According to Dr. Allison, a new genetic phenotype has emerged. When prion protein levels are knocked down in zebra fish, their brains fail to develop properly. This phenotype does not persist in mice. The discovery is an important step toward better understanding of prion function.

Dr. Allison is an assistant professor in biological sciences at the University of Alberta. He is also a researcher with the Alberta Prion Research Institute and the U of A's Centre for Prions and Prion Folding Diseases.

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