UAPB's Aquaculture Program Hears From Zebrafish Expert

Many scientists believe zebrafish could replace mice as laboratory models for human diseases, and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff's nationally recognized aquaculture program is poised to benefit.

Christian Lawrence, manager of the Aquatic Resources Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, the pediatric teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, on Tuesday presented a seminar titled, "The Importance of Zebrafish in the Aquaculture Industry," at UAPB, which is considering developing its own zebrafish program.


The small, blue-striped fish has many desirable attributes that scientists look for when trying to model human and fish diseases, according to UAPB's Trace Peterson, a nationally recognized expert on zebrafish diseases, including cancer and toxicology.

Peterson serves as assistant professor of fish pathology and director of the UAPB Fish Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.  

"Over the past 15 years, zebrafish have become the preeminent vertebrate model organism for scientific discovery," he said. "In both academia and private industry, zebrafish are replacing laboratory rodents in many areas of research such as cancer and infectious disease studies, children’s diseases, behavior studies, toxicology and drug development and screening. Zebrafish are incredibly easy to use when compared to other lab animals."

Peterson said zebrafish are inexpensive, produce large numbers of offspring and their genetics can be easily manipulated to create mutant lines for researchers.

"This little tropical fish, once a mainstay of home aquariums, has taken a leading role in helping us to better understand the underlying complexities of human diseases as well as those diseases of aquaculture fishes that cause economic losses," he said. "Zebrafish have already made major contributions to science and medicine and are poised to do so for aquaculture."  

Lawrence manages the Aquatic Resources Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, home to one of the largest and most active zebrafish biomedical research programs in the world. Peterson called him a visionary pioneer in the husbandry and management of laboratory zebrafish.

"His scientific work regarding zebrafish care, culture and colony management has significantly contributed to and improved our basic and advanced understanding of zebrafish requirements in the research environment," Peterson said. "Chris has shown what is possible in his career as a fish biologist, and giving our students at UAPB and statewide the opportunity to have similar careers working with zebrafish is one of the major benefits of developing a zebrafish program here in Arkansas."