Zebrafish reveal secrets of the developing gut

Zebrafish reveal secrets of the developing gut
The developing gut of a zebrafish, magnified.

Our intestine is a highly complex organ – a tortuous, rugged channel built of many specialized cell-types and coated with a protective, slimy matrix. Yet the intestine begins as a simple tube consisting of a central lumen lined by a sheet of epithelial cells, which are smooth cells that lie on the surface of the lumen. These intestinal epithelial cells are central players in many human diseases.

Daniel Levic of the Bagnat Lab is using as experimental models to understand how intestines are formed in hopes of finding new ways to combat . He wants to learn how the intestinal lumen forms during early development, and how take on their physiological functions.

Levic, a postdoctoral research associate in the department of cell biology at the Duke University Medical Center, focuses on projects in both basic and translational science. Daniel uses zebrafish to analyze the formation of the lumen and the polarity of epithelial —how specialized they are for carrying out different functions— at the genetic and cellular level. He focuses on how membrane proteins are sorted into different, specialized domains of the cell surface and how this process affects intestinal formation. Additionally, Daniel studies how inflammation is evaded in intestinal epithelial cells in Crohn's disease using a combination of patient and animal studies in zebrafish. This project is a collaborative effort aided by clinicians and human geneticists at the Duke University Medical Center.

Though complex human diseases can't be fully mimicked in animal models like zebrafish, this type of research can be extremely useful. These model organisms can be used to study the basic, fundamental cellular mechanisms that ultimately underlie disease. An example is Daniel's work on Crohn's disease, where he is trying to understand how inflammatory signaling networks become activated, specifically in intestinal epithelial cells. This problem is difficult, if not impossible, to address using exclusively human biopsy samples.

Overall, Daniel hopes that his translational research will provide new knowledge of the role of intestinal epithelial cells in Crohn's disease and provide biomarkers that will aid clinicians in predicting how patients will respond to therapeutic interventions. Daniel's research and are rapidly changing the way we diagnose disease, treat patients, and interact with the world around us.


Explore further

Titanium dioxide nanoparticles can exacerbate colitis

Provided by Duke University
Citation: Zebrafish reveal secrets of the developing gut (2017, July 27) retrieved 24 April 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-07-zebrafish-reveal-secrets-gut.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
2 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

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