Zebra fish help research into cancer and epilepsy


Zebra fish are used for medical research at both the Anton de Kom University (AdeKUS) in Suriname and the University of Cuenca in Ecuador. They are helping research into the treatment of cancer in Suriname and epilepsy in Ecuador. The method is cheap and easy to apply. Both research projects have come about in association with KU Leuven, as part of the Institutional University Cooperation with AdeKUS and the University of Cuenca.

Cancer research

Retouched Zebrafish -5The medicinal plant research group at AdeKUS is doing research into malignant tumours. According to figures published by the Suriname authorities, cancer is the third bigger cause of death in the country. In the traditional treatment, the tumour cells are attacked directly. The research group is experimenting with an alternative treatment, which entails trying to eliminate the tumour by inhibiting the growth of blood vessels.

The zebra fish are used to test the capacity of plant extracts for inhibiting the growth of blood vessels. These are genetically modified zebra fish with fluorescent blood vessel cells. If certain plant extracts do prove to inhibit the growth of blood vessels, the researchers will identify the active components and conduct further tests.

A study into eye conditions in diabetes patients is an example of innovative application of the zebra fish test setup. Certain types of diabetes are characterised by the growth of blood vessels, which can lead to impaired vision.

Research into epilepsy

The medicinal plant research group at the University of Cuenca is doing research into epilepsy. The researchers are looking for plants that have a positive impact on the treatment of epilepsy. They make use of local population groups by asking them about their knowledge of plants.

The zebra fish are used to test the activity of plant extracts. The researchers collect the fertilised eggs every day. After a few days they treat the fish larva with compounds that induce epilepsy-like attacks. The behaviour of the larva is easy to follow under the microscope. The researchers check to see whether adding the plant extracts to the water stops the convulsions.

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