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Advancing Biology with Zebrafish: Genetic Tools for Developmental Studies and More

Posted by Guest Blogger on Aug 13, 2019 8:58:54 AM

This post was contributed by Katherine Rogers, a postdoctoral researcher at the Friedrich Miescher Lab of the Max Planck Society.

Zebrafish (Danio rerio) have been used since the 1930’s in a range of biological studies, including investigations into environmental pollutants and health, embryo growth, brain function, and disease development. Why have zebrafish become such a popular model organism?

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Topics: Other, Organisms

Mouse Modeling, Part 2: Breeding and Crossing Mice

Posted by Aliyah Weinstein on Aug 6, 2019 8:55:01 AM

In Part 1 of our mouse modeling blog series, we covered techniques that can be used to introduce genetic modifications into mouse embryos. But once you generate a growing colony of genetically engineered mice, what can you do? In this post, we’ll cover why and how to cross mice to create double knockout lines and Cre-lox lines, and how to properly control for genetically engineered mice in your experiment.

As you’ve learned in Part 1, there are many types of genetically engineered mice: transgenic mice, knockin and knockout mice, and conditional knockin or knockout mice. While these techniques are each useful for introducing one modification into the mouse genome, they are not commonly used to introduce multiple mutations. This is because as more mutations are introduced into a single embryo, the likelihood that a mouse will end up with the intended genotype at every allele decreases.

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Topics: Cre-lox, Other, Organisms

Zebrafish as a Model for Behavior: Swimming into the Optogenetic Spotlight

Posted by Maya Peters Kostman on Jul 16, 2019 8:59:05 AM

Optogenetics, the use of light sensitive proteins (opsins) to manipulate cell activity, enables researchers to silence or incite neuronal firing and study subsequent effects on behavior. The system is an especially powerful tool for in vivo behavioral studies because it is non-invasive and offers a high degree of control over time and space.

Zebrafish have become a popular model organism because their larval stage lends itself well to studies of neuroscience. The larvae of zebrafish are translucent and allow for noninvasive live imaging with fluorescent tags and activation of light sensing proteins. Furthermore, during the first 2 weeks of life, larvae already exhibit distinct behaviors such as spontaneous swimming and escape reflex. These traits, coupled with short generation times and high fecundity, make zebrafish ideal for high throughput studies of optogenetics. 

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Topics: Optogenetics, Viral Vectors, Organisms

Mouse Modeling, Part 1: Genetically Engineered Mice

Posted by Aliyah Weinstein on Jul 11, 2019 9:26:08 AM

Mice are a common model organism used to understand mammalian traits and genetically engineered mouse models provide researchers with useful and adaptable tools to perform basic and preclinical research. For scientists new to using mouse models, the possibilities may seem endless - and overwhelming.

In the first blog post in this series, I’ll highlight terminology you should be familiar with before working with mouse models, several common techniques used to create engineered mouse models at embryonic stages, and the pros and cons of different genome editing techniques.

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Topics: Other, Organisms

What's Your Organism? Expanding Genomic Tools via the NSF EDGE Program

Posted by Joanne Kamens on May 2, 2019 8:41:38 AM

In this heyday of molecular biology, many scientists do a lot of DNA work but never get to actually manipulate the organism they study (unless if you count normal human interaction for all of us studying human genes in test tubes and gels). As a freshman in college I studied development and evolution of histone genes in Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, the spiny purple sea urchin. It’s not a standard model organism, but it was easy to harvest eggs and sperm, mix them in a tank, and observe the beauty of embryo development in real time. I was already a biology geek, but this formative experience nailed down my plan to become a research scientist. I recently was invited to attend the first Principal Investigator meeting of the NSF EDGE (Enabling Discovery Through Genomic Tools) Program and I met scientists from 21 different labs who clearly also share this wonder of the organism.  

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Topics: Other, Organisms

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