UO gets big money for tiny fish

UO gets big money for tiny fish

EUGENE, ORe. -- Zebrafish are small.

Very small.

"Oh, they're about three or four milimeters long," said Judith Eisen, a zebrafish researcher.

They are smaller than you, but look closer, and you'll see some similarities.

"The little round thing," Eisen said, "is the lens, just like the lens of our eye, and the cup part is like the back of our eye with the retina."

Those similarties make zebrafish a great organism for researching all kinds of human diseases.

"Blood diseases, heart, gastrointestinal diseases," Eisen said. "The list goes on and on and on."

The University of Oregon already has one of the country's largest zebrafish research centers.

Now, thanks to a $9.1 million stimulus grant from the National Institutes of Health, the lab is about to double in size.
    
The new money will be used for a major expansion of the facility, plus new equipment, more research staff and more fish.

"I was thrilled and flabbergasted because it was a very competitive process," said Judith Eisen, a UO biology professor and zebrafish researcher for more than 25 years. The money was made available through the federal stimulus bill for research projects that improve efficiency.

Zebrafish make good research subjects because they are similar to humans in many ways. They are vertabrates, and have similar eyes, hearts and skin pigments. In addition, they reproduce rapidly, which is helpful for scientists looking for changes and mutations in offspring.