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Zinc in fluorescent zebrafish could hold the key to understanding diabetes and other diseases

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Scientists have discovered a new way of detecting zinc in zebra fish, that could pave the way for furthering our understanding of diseases like type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Zinc is found throughout the body and involved in many metabolic pathways that affect the function of the immune system and brain, reproduction, and sexual development.

It is also increasingly recognised as a key element in the treatment of a range of diseases, for example type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s unclear whether zinc is a cause of disease, or if it’s employed to prevent its development or progression, and there is great interest in developing a molecular probe which can detect zinc in the body.

While a lot of work has been done in vitro, very few people have looked at how zinc works in whole organisms. This new study, by Queen Mary, University of London has focused on the development of a sensor for zinc to be used in studies on zebrafish (Danio rerio).

Due to their fast development, zebra fish can be grown outside the mother’s body, and their embryos are transparent, allowing for a clear observation of their organs.The team designed a sensor which switched on fluorescence in the fish when zinc was present.

Read the full report by Simon Meadows on The Optimist’s Website