Science Forum to Look at How Zebrafish are Redefining Medical Research

Zebrafish, commonly found at pet stores, share 12,800 genes in common with humans. That link is helping researchers at UT with research that could make medicine more affordable.

Steven Ripp, research associate professor in UT’s Center for Environmental Biotechnology, will explain how biomedical researchers are using zebrafish to unlock medical mysteries at this week’s Science Forum. His talk, “Catch-of-the-Day: The Tiny Zebrafish in the Big Pharmaceutical Pond,” begins at noon on Friday in Room C-D of Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Science Forum is a weekly brown-bag lunch series that allows professors and area scientists to discuss their research with the general public in a conversational presentation.

Free and open to the public, each Science Forum consists of a forty-minute presentation followed by a Q-and-A session. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own lunch or purchase it at the café in Thompson-Boling Arena. The Science Forum, sponsored by the UT Office of Research and Quest magazine, is an initiative to raise awareness of the research, scholarship, and creative activity happening on campus.

Ripp said 84 percent of the 12,800 genes shared between the zebrafish and humans are those linked to diseases. This common bond allows scientists to use zebrafish to test new drugs and treatments—and that saves time and money.

Because the zebrafish is transparent early in its lifecycle, scientists can actually see the organs and tissues, allowing them to better understand how a new drug works.

Researchers are also looking at ways to integrate genes into the zebrafish, which cause certain organs and tissues to emit bioluminescent light that cameras are able to capture, making visualization even easier.

Ripp received his bachelor’s degree in microbiology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and his doctorate in molecular genetics at Oklahoma State University. He then served as an Alexander Hollaender Postdoctoral Fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory before becoming a research associate professor at UT. Ripp’s research focuses on bioengineering and using bioluminescence in living organisms for environmental and biomedical monitoring.

For more about the UT Science Forum, visit scienceforum.utk.edu.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)