Labs across campus and the world study zebrafish, a freshwater fish that can be found at pet stores, to learn more about genetics and human disease. Strange as it seems, fish and humans have very similar development cycles, especially in the early stages of development.
Current research involves studying and understanding the development of zebrafish embryos and applying this knowledge to human biology and disease. This research often requires extracting DNA samples from the fish. To extract DNA from a human patient, researchers would draw blood, or take a hair or skin sample. Due to the size of human beings, removing a sufficient sample is relatively easy. In contrast, retrieving DNA samples from such tiny fish is rather difficult. This is especially the case when attempting to collect DNA samples from zebrafish embryos, which are only a few millimeters in length.
In response to challenges of collecting DNA, Chris Lambert, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, and his team are developed an automated zebrafish DNA collection system. This new system allows researchers to collect DNA samples from live zebrafish embryos at almost 100 fish an hour. The instrument is currently being tested in several labs across the world and is projected to be for sale in spring 2018.
“Our aim was to develop a tool that would streamline the way DNA samples were collected from zebrafish by increasing throughput while maintaining fish wellbeing,” Lambert said. “We also aimed to enable research that was previously not feasible with existing equipment. Our instrument appears to have accomplished this.”
Find this article and a lot more in the 2018 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers and entrepreneurs.