Associate Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology; AHFMR Senior Scholar; Canada Research Chair (Tier II - Genetics / Angiogenesis); Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada Scholar
Rm 2223, Health Sciences Bldg
3330 Hospital Drive NW
Calgary, AB T2N 4N1
Angiogenesis, using zebrafish as a model system
We are taking a genetic approach to identify new genes involved in angiogenesis, the process by which new blood vessels develop. The cardiovascular system is critical for the survival of vertebrates, and is one of the earliest organ systems to develop in an embryo. Our experimental approach is to identify mutant animals with defects in cardiovascular development during embryogenesis, and then to clone the gene underlying each defect. We then examine the role of these genes in embryonic development and disease. Angiogenesis is altered in many diseases; for instance, it is increased during tumor growth and in diabetic retinopathy. In other cases, impaired angiogenesis can also lead to disease, for instance, in ischemia. The understanding of genes controlling blood vessel growth may therefore lead to new treatments for disease.
Zebrafish are a common tropical fish that develop as transparent, externally fertilized embryos. We can observe their development during all stages of embryogenesis under a microscope, in contrast to mammals which develop in utero and are inaccessible. We use zebrafish as a model system because they are small, transparent, and their cardiovascular system develops very similarly to that of mammals. This allows us to do very detailed screens for subtle genetic defects. Each pair of zebrafish lays a large number of eggs each week. This greatly facilitates genetic analysis. Furthermore, as the zebrafish genome is sequenced, it is clear that essentially all of the known genes involved in the establishment of the early vascular system are conserved between fish and mammals.
In all projects, we take a genetic approach