12:26pm Saturday 21 October 2017

Genetic Research of Zebrafish Helps Understanding of Human Disease

University of Calgary researchers got a boost from one of the country’s top funding bodies today. The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) announced $1.8 million in funding for nine research projects, including a project in the Faculty of Medicine that studies the genetic basis for disease using fish as experimental models.

“Our government is investing in science and technology to create jobs, improve the quality of life of Canadians and strengthen the economy,” said Lee Richardson, Member of Parliament for Calgary Centre who made the announcement at University of Calgary. “This investment will make sure that our scientists have the tools they need to be successful, and help Canada develop, attract and retain the world’s best researchers.”

Scientists at the Faculty of Medicine find tiny zebrafish pack a powerful genetic punch. They are using the fish to learn more about how neurons in the hypothalamic region of the brain develop and organize.

Project leader Deborah Kurrasch, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Genetics, says using zebrafish to identify the genes important for hypothalamic development and function has the potential to shed insight into human conditions such as appetite or sleep disorders, as well as hypothalamic-pituitary diseases, such as hyper- or hypothyroidism.

“Zebrafish are an excellent model system to study the genetic basis of human disease because we can conduct genetic screens that reveal mutants based on phenotype, thereby often providing a unique entry-point into identifying and characterizing genes critical to biology,” says Kurrasch, a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute for Child and Maternal Health. Sarah Childs, PhD is a co-applicant on the funding.

“Dr. Kurrasch and the other recipients of this funding highlight the first-class research and very important problems being tackled by scientists at our institution,” says Edward McCauley, vice president of research at the University of Calgary. “We are very proud of the innovative research being done at University of Calgary and appreciate the important support we receive through our partnership with CFI.”

Today’s announcement was part of a total of $53.3 million to support 207 projects at 42 institutions across Canada through the CFI’s Leaders Opportunity Fund. The Leaders Opportunity Fund program is designed to help attract and retain top researchers.

“CFI investments provide vital infrastructure in communities across the country and create opportunities for leveraging the work being undertaken by our enterprising researchers,” said Gilles G. Patry, CFI president and CEO. “Cutting-edge research facilities are magnets that attract the best talent from around the world, allowing them to work with business and train a new generation of Canadian researchers and innovators.”


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