Killifish help scientists study aging

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Scientists are using killifish from the Nothobranchius genus to study the effects of aging.

According to a paper in the latest issue of the journal Aging Cell, Nothobranchius can be used to test the effects of aging at a pace comparable to that seen with other model organisms such as the fruit fly, Drosophila.

Nothobranchius come from Africa and are an annual species in the wild. They produce eggs which remain in the bottom mud to survive when their pools dry out, so their eggs can be stored dry at room temperature for many years.

Because they live fast and die young, they make good subjects for studying the effects of aging upon vertebrate cells.

One killifish species, N. furzeri, has been singled out as being particularly well-suited to aging studies as it has a typical lifespan of only three months. "Nothobranchius furzeri offers the possibility to perform investigations thus far unthinkable in a vertebrate..."The team believes the fish provides a unique research opportunity: "Nothobranchius furzeri offers the possibility to perform investigations thus far unthinkable in a vertebrate, such as drug-screening with life-long pharmacological treatments and experimental evolution."

The paper, which has been published by a team of scientists from an Italian institute of neuroscience, is aiming to revive interest in using killies in research.

For more details see: Genade T, Benedetti M, Terzibasi E, Roncaglia P, Valenzano DR, Cattaneo A, Cellerino A (2005) - Annual fishes of the genus Nothobranchius as a model system for aging research. Aging Cell. 2005 Oct ; 4(5): 223-33