Michigan State University scientists have come up with a more efficient method to clone zebra fish, which may eventually prove very useful in human health research.
What makes this work an important achievement is the fact that zebra fish, which have served as an excellent model for understanding normal development and birth defects for more than 20 years, are quickly becoming the animal of choice for many researchers.
"After the mouse, it is the most commonly used vertebrate in genetic studies. It is used in cancer research and cardiovascular research because they have many of the same genes we have," Nature magazine quoted Jose Cibelli, an MSU professor of Animal Science, as saying.
While previous methods of cloning zebra fish have had very low success rates, the MSU researchers say that their novel method can increase the number of cloned fish that can be obtained from an adult fin cell or an embryonic tail clip increased by 2 percent to 13 percent, respectively.
What makes zebra fish so useful in research is their eggs are transparent and the fish's development is easy to follow.
Improving on the techniques of zebra fish cloning also is important because currently only the mouse remains the best model for gene targeting.
"So far the mouse is the only one from which you can delete genes in a reliable fashion. What researchers do is mutate a gene, abolish its function completely, and then study the consequences," Cibelli said.
A research article describing the novel technique has been published in the journal Nature Methods.