Cincinnati—Transgenic zebrafish have had foreign genes inserted into
their DNA, so that they light up like fireflies when they encounter
certain environmental toxins, may soon be used to protect public waters
in the Greater Cincinnati area. Daniel Nebert, MD, professor of
environmental genetics at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of
Medicine Center for Environmental Genetics says, "Basically, when
exposed to water polluted with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the
fish become luminescent (due to a firefly gene) or fluoresce green (due
to a jelly fish gene)." PCBs are known to cause cancer in humans.
Carvan III, PhD, UC research assistant professor of environmental
health, is conducting this research project with the help of Clermont
County officials. Carvan is applying for funding from the National
Institutes of Health (NIH) for this research. If successful, the fish
could serve as highly sensitive monitors for Lake Harsha in East Fork
State Park on the eastern edge of Cincinnati. The ordinary zebra danio
fish bought from pet stores will be kept in tanks filled with Lake
Harsha water that is heated to 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit to determine
if the fish can survive in the water. The light-producing transgenic
fish will be used if the ordinary pet store fish survive.
the level of pollutants at East Fork Park is not harmful to humans at
this time, a hazardous waste dump is upstream from Pleasant Run and has
PCBs stored underground in lined and unlined pits. People are concerned
about the possibility of leaks at older hazardous dumpsites that
contain cancer-causing chemicals.
"If successful, these
transgenic zebrafish could provide us with a highly sensitive
monitoring system," says Carvan. "The transgenic fish are 10,000 times
more sensitive than current water testing systems and can detect very
low concentrations of PCBs in the lake," says Nebert. "The fish are
also very cheap to maintain," says Paul Russell, PhD, a water-quality
consultant for Clermont County.
There will be a slide show presentation and zebrafish demonstration
given by Michael Carvan, PhD, and Daniel Nebert, MD, in room 302 at
Wyoming Middle School from 2:30 to 3:00 p.m. on December 14. The
presentation/demonstration will be given by Michael Carvan, PhD, Daniel
Nebert, MD, and Paul Russell, PhD, in the small conference room at
Clermont College at 9:30 a.m. on December 15.