Wednesday, April 8, 2020

USRP Student Jasmine James Investigates The Relationship Between Vitamin A Derivatives and Zebrafish Embryo Development

My name is Jasmine James and I am a junior, biology major and data analysis minor. This semester I am participating in URSP to answer a question I have been wondering about for years. The question stems from something my mother used to tell me a lot, “When I was pregnant with you, I couldn’t get a relaxer”.

There are many factors which can affect pregnancy, one of which is a chemical compound called retinoic acid. It is a naturally occurring chemical, which in regulated doses promotes the development of the spine. However, it is also known to have negative effects when introduced in excess. There are also multiple chemicals which are very similar to retinoic acid, such as retinol and retinol palmitate. Retinol is a major portion of Vitamin A and is how retinoic acid exists prior to its conversion after being taken into the body. Retinol palmitate is the synthetic version of retinoic acid which is used in cosmetics such as sunscreen and hair relaxers. I began to wonder if these two compounds have the same effect on the embryos as retinoic acid. 

To determine the effects, we used the model organism of zebrafish. They are the prime model for studies involving embryo development due to how rapidly they develop, and how easy they are to care for.  I have been working with Dr. Olmo to study the zebrafish embryos until they reach 72 hours of life before imaging them and analyzing the images. We analyze how their tails are bent based upon exposure group: retinoic acid, retinol, retinol palmitate, or negative control. Through this process I hope to delve as far into my research as I can to gain a better understanding of vitamin A derivatives, and the complex nature that is developmental biology.