Fluorescent fish genes light path to neuroblastoma

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Rice U. CPRIT Scholar Rosa Uribe traces roots of pediatric cancer using zebrafish
A new type of zebrafish that produces fluorescent tags in migratory embryonic nerve precursor cells could help a Rice University neurobiologist and cancer researcher find the origins of the third-most common pediatric cancer in the U.S.
Rice University neurodevelopmental biologist Rosa Uribe is using zebrafish to study the origins of neuroblastoma and other cancers with a CPRIT Scholar grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. (Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)
Rosa Uribe, who was recruited to Rice in 2017 with a CPRIT Scholar grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, created the transgenic fish with colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago and California Institute of Technology and co-authored a new paper about them this month in the journal Genesis.
“You can see they’ve already started to migrate that way, and a lot of them are transitioning,” Uribe said in her office as she traced the movements of green neural crest cells in a time-lapse movie playing on her computer. In humans, neural crest cells are the point of origin for neuroblastoma, a common pediatric cancer, and Uribe’s hoping the new fish can provide clues the disease.
“You can see that a lot of them are transitioning,” she said of the cells on her screen. “Some of them are dividing there, there, there. And then they turn off the green, which means they’re done dividing.”
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Why the cells stop dividing is one of the key questions she hopes to answer. SOX10 is one of more than 20 varieties of SOX proteins, and all of them regulate rapid cell division in fast-growing embryos. The same SOX proteins are also often found activated in cancer cells. Finding the “off” switch for SOX10 in neural crest cells could …

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