Scientists: Zebrafish could hold key to fighting pancreatic cancer

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Phoenix, Ariz. (KPHO) — Scientists at the Translational Genomics Research Institute got a much-anticipated delivery one week ago.

The tadpole looking creatures are actually baby Zebrafish. The fish just hatched and are only a few days old.

It might be hard to believe, but humans have a lot in common with Zebrafish. They share about 70 percent of our genetic code.

“That is amazing. Just think about how small the fish is,” Dr. Haiyong Han said.

Han is an associate professor in the clinical translational research division at TGen and said it only takes Zebrafish a few months to mature. An adult is little over an inch long.

“It’s small and translucent so you can see through the skin of the fish,” Han said.

Han said that’s a big advantage when it comes to research. By using a microscope, scientists can watch cancer tumors develop in real time. They can also see effects of different treatments.

This particular study will be used to complement other research TGen is doing on pancreatic cancer.

“The median survival for a patient with pancreatic cancer in the later stages is only six months,” Han said.

Scientists at TGen are working develop ways to diagnose the disease earlier. Another goal is to be able to take an imprint of a patient’s tumor and place it into the fish.

“They will grow and you can test potential drugs that way,” Dr. Han said

Instead of it taking months to find out if a drug will work, Dr. Han said the fish might be able to give doctors an answer in a matter of weeks.

Because the cost of maintaining Zebrafish is relatively low, researchers can conduct multiple studies in short periods of time.

Zebrafish are also being used in other labs around the world to develop treatments for many different types of cancer.

TGen is a nonprofit organization. This study was funded by Seena Magowitz Foundation.

Read more here.

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