Genetic approaches to organ regeneration in zebrafish
Development of therapies that stimulate the regenerative capacity of human organs would represent a medical panacea. By contrast with mammals, salamanders and fish have a tremendous capacity for regeneration. Thus, we have a lot to learn from lower vertebrate creatures. Surprisingly, little is known about the molecules that stimulate and maintain regeneration, and even the cellular events that define regeneration are poorly understood. Through use of the popular laboratory model system, zebrafish, we can apply molecular genetic tools to dissect regeneration.
Following our discovery of heart regeneration in zebrafish, we have been identifying key cellular and molecular events responsible for this spectacular phenomenon that is all but lost in adult mammals. We are also studying how amputated fins regenerate, through large-scale screens for mutants in appendage regeneration and molecular analysis of how positional identity is maintained during regeneration.