” Imagine a translucent fish smaller than your pinky finger that produces eggs on a daily basis. There are thousands of these fish, called zebra fish, swimming around in Dr. Rich Londraville’s biology lab. Dr. Rich Londraville, associate professor of biology at the University of Akron, has been working with two Buchtel High School students in the study of zebra fish and leptin.””
Imagine a translucent fish smaller than your pinky finger that produces eggs on a daily basis.
There are thousands of these fish, called zebra fish, swimming around in Dr. Rich Londraville’s biology lab.
Dr. Rich Londraville, associate professor of biology at the University of Akron, has been working with two Buchtel High School students in the study of zebra fish and leptin.
The hormone leptin was first discovered in mice in 1994 and is most commonly known as the hormone that controls appetite.
Akil Gregory and Daryllanae Phelps, both juniors at Buchtel High School, are a part of Project GRAD Akron, which is a program used to improve the academic achievement of students from low-income backgrounds.
They will each receive a $2,500 stipend for their involvement in the study.
Londraville interviewed six students for the positions.
They were all qualified and did a really good job, but I could only pick two, he said.
They were both really excited about it. They sounded like they weren’t just interested in the money, he said, explaining why he chose Gregory and Phelps.
The students began working with Londraville in September.
We spent the first month just getting basic lab skills down, he explained.
Now they are going to actually start collecting data on their own projects.
Phelps is focusing her research on determing if females have more leptin than males. Gregory’s research focuses on delivering leptin without injection.
Londraville explained that humans who receive leptin do so through injection.
Gregory wants to find out if zebra fish can absorb leptin into their bodies through their gills by placing them in water with leptin in it.
If they will do that, it would be a huge bonus to us experimentally, Londraville said.
The discovery of leptin in mice formed the building blocks for studying it in humans.
Soon after scientists discovered it in mice, they realized that not all mice had leptin. The ones that did not have the hormone were overweight.
If you give [the mice] some leptin, it’s like popping a balloon; it’s like they deflate, Londraville explained.
This discovery excited many people and it seemed to be a cure for obesity.
It was soon discovered, however, that obese people actually did have leptin.
It’s almost like diabetes in that it takes more and more of the hormone to do the same job that it used to do, he explained.
Among the things that leptin controls, besides appetite, include immune function, bone density and overall activity level.
It turned out to be really complicated, Londraville said.
Because of this, he wants to study leptin in an evolutionary older system, such as fish.
Leptin in fish is likely to be less complex than the leptin in humans.
That idea has been used over and over again in figuring out many complex systems, like figuring out how nerves work or figuring out how kidneys work, he said.
Londraville described zebra fish as the new rats because of the experimental advantages they have to rats.
Zebra fish are only an inch and one half long when fully grown.
A room that could hold 50 rats could hold 10,000 zebra fish, Londraville said.
They also breed every day. As the biggest experimental advantage, they are clear for the first four days of their life, providing researchers with an exceptional opportunity.
Gregory and Phelps will work with Londraville until December.
All the kids that I’ve run into at Buchtel High School that are a part of Program GRAD Akron have been really sharp, Londraville said.
Their teachers are really excellent. They work really hard to give them every opportunity they can get, he continues.
It’s been a pleasure working with them.