GM danio shines light on pollution

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Scientists have developed a glow-in-the-dark Zebra danio to trace pollutants in the body.

The team from the University of Exeter, led by Dr Tetsuhiro Kudoh and Professor Charles Tyler, created the GM fish, whose organs and tissues glow fluorescent green if they are affected by foreign chemicals.

Chemicals in some industrial products contain oestrogen and have been linked to reproductive problems. The new danio has been engineered so that it reacts to the presence of oestrogen by glowing, enabling scientists to identify where the impact is and giving them a more comprehensive view on the potential effects of these hormone disrupting chemicals on the body.

Scientists worldwide are now working to find better ways of screening and testing for these chemicals in the body, to target the health risks to humans and wildlife.

Professor Charles Tyler said: "By being able to localise precisely where different environmental oestrogens act in the body, we will be able to more effectively target health effects analyses for these chemicals of concern. While it is still early days, we are confident that our zebrafish model can help us better understand the way the human body responds to these pollutants."

Previous University of Exeter research identified the potential for a major group of these chemicals to cause male fish to change gender, while in humans exposure has been associated with a decrease in sperm count and breast and testicular cancer.

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