Dalhousie University leads the way with cancer research

November 10, 2014

Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, may look like an aquarium to those who enter the new lab in the Life Sciences Research Institute building, according to Metro News.The new addition cost $1.8 million to complete and contains a zebrafish lab, a Centralized Operation of Research Equipment and Support facility and a molecular lab so students and faculty can conduct tissue and cell experiments on the fish in hopes of advancing treatment for a number of diseases including cancer.

The 4,000-square-foot space is one of the largest of its kind in Canada and has the capability of transforming Halifax into a hub for zebrafish research and disease modeling in the country.

The possibilities of zebrafish

"Zebrafish… are very genetically similar to people," Dr. Jason Berman, director of the new lab, told the Metro News.

This makes the aquatic animal an excellent candidate for studying the effects of new treatments designed to fight cancer, even more so than mice. Some of the fish have even been manipulated to lose their pigmentation, causing them to appear transparent so researchers can better watch the progress of diseases.

The new facility can hold up to 65,000 adult zebrafish at one time, and with a single fish able to produce 2,000 embryos a week, scientists have a significant capability to progress through trials and experiments.

"The speed and cost-effectiveness of these studies means the zebrafish can provide real-time response data to personalize cancer therapies and serve as a key preclinical screening platform in the pipeline for new drug discovery," Berman told Dalhousie University News.

A multipurpose facility at Dalhousie

This new lab and the zebrafish that will inhabit it can offer many more benefits beyond the realm of cancer research as well. Other diseases that affect humans – like breast cancer, neurologic disorders, memory problems and even cardiac development - can be explored using the facility.

The lab positions Dalhousie University as an excellent partner for international research institutions looking to make good use of the sophisticated technology and advanced tools it's equipped with. Other departments on campus will also have the ability to use the facilities to explore emerging ideas and treatments.

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