Zebrafish, Zinc and Diabetes

Zebrafish, Zinc and DiabetesZebrafish, Zinc and Diabetes: Zinc is an important trace mineral that people need to stay healthy. Only iron is in stronger form in the body than zinc. Zinc’s highest concentrations are found in the prostate gland and sperm of men, the red and white blood cells, the retinas of the eyes, the liver and the kidneys. In fact, “zinc is found throughout the body and is involved in metabolic pathways that affect the function of the immune system, the brain, reproduction and sexual development.”

In an effort to better understand zinc and its effects, a study was undertaken in England that used zebrafish to try to further the understanding of diseases like type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer and Alzhiemer’s Disease. Scientists from Queen Mary, University of London, have discovered a new way of detecting zinc in zebrafish.

This new study, run by Professor Mike Watkinson, Dr. Stephen Goldup and Dr. Caroline Brennan, all from the Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, the results of which were announced July 3, 2011, at the Sixth International Symposium on Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry, in Brighton, England, focused its efforts on the development of a sensor for zinc to be used in studies on the zebrafish.

The zebrafish is something you might see in home aquariums. It’s a pretty fish. The zebrafish (danio rerio) is a tropical freshwater fish that belongs to the minnow family. You can find this fish at your local pet store where it’s sold as “zebra danio.” The zebrafish is also very important in scientific research.



Zebrafish grow very quickly, and the babies can be grown outside the mother’s body. The embryos of zebrafish are transparent. This transparency allows the scientists to have a clear view of their organs.

The scientists in this study were able to develop a senor that could detect the zinc in the fish by switching fluorescence on the fish when zinc was present.

This allowed the scientists to view the zinc inside various parts of the zebrafish, including the pancreas, where the Islets of Langerhans (producers of insulin) are located. This new view of the pancreas in the fish might help further understand the role of zinc in the development of Type 2 diabetes and various other diseases.

Type 2 diabetes (formerly known as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes) is a metabolic disorder that results in high blood levels in the context of insulin resistance and relative insulin deficiency. Type 2 diabetes is often managed by increasing exercise and diet modification. In some cases when exercise and diet do not bring the blood sugar levels under control, oral medication may be used to treat the condition. The cause of Type 2 diabetes has long been thought to be a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors.

Today, more and more children and adolescents are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and this rise in the numbers of Type 2 diabetes-diagnosed children has been attributed in many cases to lack of exercise and the excessive intake of food. As well, environmental toxins may have contributed to this increased rate of Type 2 diabetes.

The easily viewed zinc in the zebrafish will help in discovering more and more about various diseases.