Zinc and the zebrafish: Fluorescent fish could hold the key to understanding diabetes

Jul 03, 2011

Scientists from Queen Mary, University of London have discovered a new way of detecting zinc in zebra fish, that could pave the way for furthering our understanding of diseases like type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer and Alzheimer's.

The results will be announced today (3 July) at the Sixth International Symposium on Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry, in Brighton.

Zinc is found throughout the body and involved in many that affect the function of the immune system and brain, reproduction, and . Zinc is also increasingly recognised as a key element in the treatment of a range of diseases, for example , and Alzheimer's disease.

It's unclear whether zinc is a cause of disease, or if it's employed to prevent its development or progression, and there is great interest in developing a which can detect zinc in the body. While a lot of work has been done in vitro, very few people have looked at how zinc works in whole organisms.

In this new study, Professor Mike Watkinson, Dr Stephen Goldup and Dr Caroline Brennan, from Queen Mary's School of Biological and , have focused their efforts on the development of a sensor for zinc to be used in studies on zebrafish (Danio rerio). Due to their fast development, can be grown outside the mother's body, and their embryos are transparent, allowing for a clear observation of their organs.

The team designed a sensor which switched on fluorescence in the fish when zinc was present. Professor Mike Watkinson explains:"Our probe is able to visualise zinc in various parts of the fish embryos, including the pancreas and we are excited that we can develop the technology further to help understand the role of zinc in the development of important disease like Type 2 Diabetes."

The team used a technique called 'click' chemistry, which is designed to generate substances quickly and reliably by joining small units together.

The sensor was found to be particularly sensitive to identifying zinc rather than other anions such as iron or copper, and it is hoped that with further development the technology can be used by other scientists working in these important fields.

Explore further: Selenium compounds boost immune system to fight against cancer

More information: ‘Modular ‘click’ sensors for zinc and their application in vivo’ will be published in issue 47 of Chemical Communications.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Security guard' zinc is off-duty in diabetes

Jul 06, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- In type 2 diabetes, a protein called amylin forms dense clumps that shut down insulin-producing cells, wreaking havoc on the control of blood sugar. But in people without diabetes, amylin doesn't misbehave; ...

Childhood diarrhea: Treat with zinc over 6 months of age

Jul 16, 2008

Zinc supplementation benefits children suffering from diarrhoea in developing countries, but only in infants over six months old, Cochrane Researchers have found. Their study supports World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines ...

Zinc switches found in plants

Jun 03, 2010

Geneticists have discovered two gene switches in plants which enable better zinc intake. This paves the way for plant breeders to reduce malnutrition.

Zinc transporters regulate pancreatic cancer

Nov 12, 2007

Zinc, an important trace element for healthy growth and development, can be related to pancreatic cancer. Too much ZIP4, a molecule that enables the transport of zinc into cells, promotes the growth and spread of pancreatic ...

Recommended for you

Molecules that came in handy for first life on Earth

Nov 24, 2014

For the first time, chemists have successfully produced amino acid-like molecules that all have the same 'handedness', from simple building blocks and in a single test tube. Could this be how life started. ...

Jumping hurdles in the RNA world

Nov 21, 2014

Astrobiologists have shown that the formation of RNA from prebiotic reactions may not be as problematic as scientists once thought.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.