At the Medical College of Georgia there exists a tropical spot where the temperature is always 83 degrees and the water is so clear you can see the schools of fish.
Don't be too quick to grab the suntan lotion, the beach ball or a fishing pole, though, because it's actually the Transgenic Zebrafish Core Facility, which is home to about 8,000 zebrafish spread out in small tanks that fill the room from floor to ceiling.
"Some people don't believe it until they see it," said Dr. David Kozlowski, the director of the zebrafish facility and an assistant professor at MCG. "People normally think of medical schools as gross anatomy, not a place where there's thousands of fish."
Dr. Kozlowski's studies focus on the molecular genetic mechanisms that lead to the formation and regeneration of sensory cells in the inner ear.
These cells, which are in the inner ears of all vertebrate species, are important for hearing and balance because they detect sound and motion. Dr. Kozlowski is researching how these sensory cells regenerate in fish in the hopes that someday similar cells in the mammalian inner ear could be replaced.
He says zebrafish are used for biomedical research because they are vertebrates and have many of the same organ systems humans do.
In addition to the hearing and balance research, zebrafish are used to study the formation of the brain, heart, blood, kidneys and even cancer.
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