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Zebrafish (Danio rerio) has emerged recently as a premiere organism to study vertebrate development and genetics. Powerful techniques allow efficient generation and recovery of zebrafish mutations. Ongoing genetic screens have identified over 7,000 mutations in zebrafish affecting genes that regulate developmental patterning, organogenesis, physiology and behavior. The functions of many of these genes are conserved among vertebrate groups. Thus, analysis of zebrafish mutations provides insights into gene functions in other vertebrates, including humans.
The mission of the Zebrafish International Resource Center is to provide a central repository for wild-type and mutant strains of zebrafish and for materials and information about zebrafish research. Materials and zebrafish strains are distributed to the research community. Pathology services are provided for diseased fish. Standards and procedures for maintaining healthy strains of zebrafish are being developed and a manual for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases affecting zebrafish is being prepared.
Recently, a small group of representatives of the zebrafish research community obtained funds to establish an International Resource Center for Zebrafish on the University of Oregon campus. These include money from the State of Oregon for construction of a new building and grants from the NIH for construction, equipment, supplies and operating expenses.
The Resource Center has three main functions:
The last several years have witnessed an explosion in our understanding of vertebrate development, largely based on work from a few model genetic organisms. The zebrafish is the newest of these model organisms. Because the basic principles of body patterning appear similar during embryogenesis of all vertebrates, insights gained from work on embryonic zebrafish has implications for human health and disease. Moreover, research on this organism meets the intent of the Animal Welfare Act because use of many higher vertebrates can now be replaced by use of this lower vertebrate.
Systematic genetic research on zebrafish began at the University of Oregon and for many years Eugene was the only place it was performed. Recently, however, international interest in this organism has grown tremendously (Balter, 1995; Eisen, 1996; Travis, 1996); studies of the embryology and genetics of zebrafish and the recent identification of over 7,000 genetic mutations have led to a dramatic increase in the number of laboratories using this organism to study the basic mechanisms of vertebrate development. Until recently these genetic stocks were distributed among more than 100 laboratories in 28 countries. To make room for new mutants, laboratories must discontinue some of their current stocks many of which are permanently lost. The zebrafish research community desperately needed a centralized site to preserve and keep track of these stocks and to facilitate their distribution to researchers, thus supporting and promoting research opportunities while preventing duplication of effort.
The Zebrafish International Resource Center is a facility to maintain wild-type and mutant stocks of zebrafish and to make these stocks widely available to the international research community. The Resource Center reduces the requirement of individual laboratories to maintain stocks they are unable to study, it can provide animals at lower cost than individual laboratories, and most importantly, it can ensure the highest possible levels of quality and uniformity. Specifically we will: