What’s the difference between humans and zebrafish? Apart from ‘minor’ physical differences and the fact that fish are better at breathing underwater than us, zebrafish show a remarkable ability to completely regenerate all kinds of tissue after injury, most interestingly their central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). This is a feature that is sadly absent in humans – traumatic events or stroke often leaves us with lifelong disability and little hope for a full recovery. By studying the events that lead to successful regeneration in zebrafish, we can begin to generate new treatments to improv
e recovery of the human central nervous system after injury. This is the focus of Dr Leah Herrgen’s group in the Centre for Neuroregeneration. Her hypothesis is that particularly early events in the seconds and minutes after injury are critical for the orchestration of a successful regenerative response. Obviously, there are intrinsic differences between humans and zebrafish. However, the zebrafish is a vertebrate just like us and shares over 70% of our genome, which makes findings in fish more applicable to humans. With state-of-the-art live imaging and the use of genetic and pharmacological manipulation, the group aims to explore early tissue reactions occurring during zebrafish regeneration. This could provide us with a starting point leading to novel treatments for human traumatic brain injury.