Thursday, May 3, 2018

URSP Student Leonel Cabrera Researches the Pathogenic Effects of Ethanol on the Embryonic Zebrafish Stage

The effects of FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) is present over the world having a major impact on the lives of children and adults. The term FASD refers to a cluster of ethanol-related disorders of which FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) is the most common. More research is still needed to fully understand the phenotypic and genome patterns of this disorder, and the biological field has turned to analyzing model organisms for this task. Before applying to OSCAR to continue my research experience, I got my interest in this project on Fall of 2017 in order to discover possible new findings on this topic with developmental biology professor Dr. Olmo.

The goal is for the findings from this project to go to the Mason and general scientific literature as a means to advance basic research on the effects of different concentrations of ethanol on 24 hour and 48 hour embryos and encourage other students to extrapolate novel future findings using the past research as a sound platform. The applied laboratory techniques and most importantly, the ability to develop the knowledge on how and why to execute the hypothesis of interest gained from this project has helped me to become better prepared to work in a clinical laboratory environment in the future. 

On a given week, the project consists of a three day phase usually from Wednesday to Friday, where I categorize the current developmental stage of the embryos and administer the concentrations of ethanol, whereas on the next day, I analyze the results from the treatments and prepare the fluorescent solutions to image them on the microscope. The last day is for going over the results and interesting findings with my mentor, where she helps me with advice on how to improve the design of the experiment, and troubleshoot any potential limiting factor in the protocol.

One of the exciting things discovered during this experiment was a growing trend between certain ethanol amounts, particularly 1% with the positive control and the increasing rate of abnormalities along with the decrease of heart beats per minute and attention span. These results seem to support that there is a certain concentration of ethanol where its effects are more prevalent and the change in physiology in newborns is more pronounced.