Something fishy: a surprising new tool for studying non-coding RNAs

You may have more in common with the tiny zebrafish than you may have thought, according to Whitehead Institute scientists.

Researchers led by Member David Bartel discovered that zebrafish RNAs—specifically, long intervening non-coding RNAs (lincRNAs)—function similarly to their human counterparts. What does this mean? It means we can now use zebrafish as a tool to study human lincRNAs (of which very little is known) and their effect on growth and development.

zebrafish -- in situ hybridizations of lincRNAs

Researchers localize specific lincRNAs in zebrafish using in situ hybridization. Credit: Cell, 2011.

“These studies show that zebrafish, an animal that is frequently used to study the genetics of animal development, can also serve as a tool to uncover in systematic fashion the functions of lincRNAs,” says Bartel. “This is another case in which a phenomenon in zebrafish provides insight into what’s probably happening in humans.”

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