In a break through discovery, scientists have found that zebra fish embryos might prove suitable for testing new diabetes medicines.
Researchers said that the novel fish embryo technique might yield new treatments for diabetes and potentially speed up new drug discoveries for other diseases.
Jeffrey Mumm of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said that this screening technique could be applied to other than the human imagination.
Mumm said that their method was an adaptation of high throughput screening (HTS), an automated system developed in the 1980s that uses robotic equipment to ‘dose’ cell or tissue samples with candidate drugs in wells of lab dishes known as microtiter plates.
A team led by Mumm, turned to zebrafish embryos. Zebrafish have long been used as model organisms for biological research because they are transparent, making the effects of experiments easily visible, and because they share most of their genes with humans.
In the study, the researchers bred zebrafish in which pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin glowed yellow, and other pancreatic cells not responsible for producing insulin glowed red.
They placed embryos from the modified fish in microtiter plate wells and tested thousands of compounds from a Johns Hopkins library of drugs, most of which were already approved for human use.
After evaluating more than 500,000 zebrafish embryos, the researchers identified 24 compounds that effectively increased beta cell number in these animals.
The authors suggested that if these newly identified drug candidates have the same effect in other lab models and, eventually, humans, they might someday be used directly to increase beta cell numbers in people who take them or for more effectively growing beta cells in the lab for transplant.
They added that this new technique could be used to speed drug discovery for a variety of other medical conditions, from heart disease to neurodegenerative conditions to birth defects.
The study is published in the journal eLife.