Dr. Fagman discusses how animal research is relevant to understanding congenital thyroid disease.
Well, to understand this, we need good models, and all models have their benefits but also more difficult aspects. Mouse is a good model because it recapitulates human development very much when it comes to the thyroid. During recent years, zebra fish has established a position as very powerful tool in developmental biology. Of course zebra fish is small; it’s transparent, making imaging very, very easy.
Zebra fish has some benefits when it comes to altering gene function. Mice has other benefits. So when we combine these two tools in a good way, we get a very powerful toolbox to explore both general biological issues but also specific issues about how thyroid forms.
So this small fish, the zebra fish, which you have in your aquarium, could be relevant to understanding why doesn’t the thyroid form properly in some children. Good thing working with mice is that thyroid development is kind of similar to thyroid development in humans, but it takes place within a limited timeframe.
Everything is compressed, both when it comes to size, but also the timeframe is compressed. And we researchers are always anxious to see what is happening and, then the mice is good because it takes place rapidly. In zebra fish, it takes place even more rapidly, making these good tools.
If we were working with elephant embryos, we had to wait for months to get results, but the combination of reproducing human anatomy and compressed timeframe plus the possibility of making genetic research make the mouse a good model.
Dr. Henrik Fagman, M.D., Ph.D.:
Henrik Fagman is a researcher focusing on the generation of animal models of thyroid dysgenesis at the Istituto di Ricerche Genetiche "Gaetano Salvatore", Biogem s.c.ar.l. in Ariano Irpino (AV), Italy. He has also conducted research and received his basic training at the Institute of Biomedicine at The Sahlgrenska Academy at Göteborg University in Göteborg, Sweden.