Hundreds of translucent creatures that biomedical researchers rely on for genetic insights settled into new digs today as researchers opened a newly refurbished and expanded animal repository called the European Zebrafish Resource Center. Housed at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in southwest Germany, the center can maintain 400,000 live fish at maximum capacity in more than 3,000 tanks, and will include lab space for on-site zebrafish in vitro fertilization. Uwe Strähle, a geneticist at KIT, told Nature Medicine by phone after the ribbon-cutting ceremony that European zebrafish researchers eager to preserve their hard-won transgenic and mutant lines may begin submitting eggs to the center. Currently the center houses 300 transgenic lines but Strähle expected the collection to expand to hold thousands of lines in the next five years.
“Some mutant forms of zebrafish cannot be replicated so it is important to preserve those lines for future research,” Strähle explained. And as if capacity wasn’t enough, the center’s equipment might make any zebrafish investigator glassy-eyed with excitement. Located a few floors above the core aquarium room that will hold only frequently requested lines are brand-new PCR machines and freezers capable of storing 80,000 sperm samples in cryopreservation.
But Strähle thinks researchers will benefit most from the center’s screening lab, stocked with—among other neat toys—a single plane illumination microscopy machine that can be used to create 4-D images of the animals, including their traits. He envisions researchers visiting the screening lab to take advantage of the tools available to add or knock out genes and breed zebrafish lines needed for their future research.
In the past, European zebrafish researchers exchanged fish with US labs like the Zebrafish International Resource Center maintained by the University of Oregon, but the costs of sending little fish across the ocean kept going up. Zebrafish research in Europe can now make a big splash on its home turf.
Photo courtesy of Martin Lober, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology