Radboud University and Radboudumc open new zebrafish facility with symposium

15 March 2018, Nijmegen – Radboud University and Radboudumc (Nijmegen, The Netherlands) upgraded and expanded their fish husbandry system with state-of-the-art zebrafish research aquaria and more. The facility will support several departments in their research on stress, epigenetics, and cranial development, to name a few.

Zebrafish symposium

In honor of the opening of this new and improved zebrafish lab, the university organized a symposium with two keynotes and several researchers from Radboud University and Radboudumc to present their work with zebrafish.

Why zebrafish?

We were welcomed by Prof. Gert Flik, introducing us to the history of this lab and zebrafish studies in general. He stresses the importance of zebrafish, not online in research on human disease, but also in light of aquaculture, seeing that fish are an important part of the human protein consumption.

Keynote by Prof. Stephan Neuhauss

The first keynote was by Prof. Stephan Neuhauss from the University of Zurich (Switzerland). He has seen an exponential growth in zebrafish research since 1990. When he started his research there were only 4 mutations known in research!

Prof. Neuhauss

Ideal study object

According to Neuhauss, one of the reasons for his love for zebrafish is that they already show behavior in very early larval stages, but at that point their brain is still relatively simple, making them ideal for study in neuroscience research.

Retina like humans

Neuhauss’ research focusses on the vertebrate visual system, and therefore the retina is of special interest to him. The zebrafish retina is a typical vertebrate retina, almost the exact same as the human retina.

Keynote by Dr. Christian Tudorache

In the second keynote, Dr. Christian Tudorache (Leiden University, The Netherlands) tells us about his work on stress physiology and chronobiology. He found zebrafish to be an excellent model for research on the inner clock and personality.

Dr. Tudorache

Zebrafish personality

“Animal personality can be defined by a correlated set of behavioral time, one that is consistent over time and across different situations. Coping styles link physiology and behavior and are often seen as an indication of personality in zebrafish.”, Tudorache explains.

In his studies, he has found links between coping style and biological rhythmicity. Just like there are “morning people”, and “evening people”, you can differentiate chronotypes in zebrafish as well, he says.

Design of the new facilities

After the break there were several ten minutes talks, starting with a presentation from Tom van Tilburg (Zebcare / Fleuren en Nooijen, The Netherlands) about the design of the husbandry system and the new lab. He talked about ingenuity of double pumps, sedimentation tanks, LED light systems, and gray instead of blue systems. Apparently, zebrafish like the grey much better!

Current studies with zebrafish

Dr. Marnix Gorissen talks about the impact of strain differences (also see this blog) and his research using scales as indicator of cortisol levels and the stress response in zebrafish. Dr. Leonie Kamminga talked about epigenetics and development, followed by Liesbeth Gebuijs who is involved in research on human cleft lip and/or palate, also using zebrafish as a model!

Usher syndrome

Dr. Erwin van Wijk and his colleagues have done groundbreaking research on Usher syndrome, a disorder causing hearing impairments as well and blindness that usually sets in during adolescence and turns into full legal blindness around age 60.

While it has been very problematic to find a mouse model for this disease, they successfully developed a zebrafish model and with the results of these studies, they will soon be able to apply genetic therapeutic interventions in clinical trials, Van Wijk tells us in the last talk of the day.

Dr. van Wijk

After the symposium, invited guests were taken on tours of the new facilities.

Radboud University and Radboudumc use DanioVision and EthoVision XT on a daily basis for their zebrafish studies. Also see this video with Dr. Ruud van den Bos about his work with zebrafish.