Dr. Tracy Bell, a biology professor at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), has been awarded a $299,996 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for research on the kidney functions of zebrafish.
Doing necropsies on small organisms, “requires a lot of patience and concentration,” Bell said. “Hopefully, by studying the zebrafish as a model, we’ll be able to get a better understanding of vertebrate kidney function.”
In collaboration with Dr. Linda Johnson, Bell used the NSF funding to build a three-dimensional wall of aquariums in a lab at the George Washington Carver Science Hall. The 10-gallon fish tanks can house upwards of a thousand zebrafish.
“The goal is to investigate the role of insulin in regulating sodium and water transport in the kidney,” Bell wrote in her grant application.
The NSF program that awarded Bell the grant is designed to support young faculty members just starting their teaching and research careers. Bell joined the UMES faculty in 2014 in her first full-time teaching position.
Bell has one graduate student and four undergraduate students involved in the research project.
“The idea is to get them in the lab and give them the tools to get to the next level” of academic achievement, Bell said.
Bell’s project might provide a better understanding of how the kidneys regulate sodium and water balance and in turn, maintain good blood pressure. The flat kidneys of the 2-inch long tropical fish share similar “homology” traits as the bean-shaped organs in humans.
Using zebrafish as a model of vertebrate development, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis recently mapped changes in the epigenome of whole embryos.
“The human genome, like the zebrafish genome, is epigenetically regulated,” said one researcher.
Source: University of Maryland Eastern Shore Public Relations – “More than a fishing expedition for this UMES researcher” and The Source: Washington University in St. Louis – “Epigenome orchestrates embryonic development”