Glowing fish invented to help find cures for illness
April 18 2012 Lewis Smith
A fish that glows green when pollutants enter its body has been created by scientists trying to identify the ill effects of chemical contamination.
The zebrafish was genetically modified so that tissues in its body would produce fluorescent green light when they came into contact with pollutants.
It was developed to react to oestrogenic chemicals which have been linked to a variety of reproductive problems in people and wildlife, including low sperm counts, breast cancer and testicular cancers.
They have also been linked to heart problems, diabetes and obesity and have also been blamed for altering the gender of male fish.
By creating the green-glowing fish researchers are able to see which parts of the body are being affected by the chemicals which disrupt hormones.
The initial findings of the study, led by the University of Exeter, showed that the impact affected much more of the body than had previously been realised.
It is unlikely ever to be served up in a restaurant, even as one of Heston Blumenthal’s more creative dishes, but offers scientists a tool to identify and measure the impacts of pollutants.
In experiments reported in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers said: “We have developed a powerful new model for understanding toxicological effects, mechanisms, and health impacts of environmental oestrogens.”
In modifying the zebrafish researchers introduced genes that reacted to the presence of oestrogenic chemicals by producing a protein that glows green – the protein is found naturally in jellyfish.
Among the oestrogenic chemicals that get released into the environment are ethinyloestradiol, which is used in the contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy treatments, nonylphenol, which is found in paints and industrial detergents, and Bisphenol A, which is present in a variety of plastics.
Professor Charles Tyler, of the University of Exeter, said: “Now we know how to do it we hope to be able to roll it out to various different types of pollutant.”
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