VANCOUVER, Wash. – Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and its incidence is increasing. Although new information is released frequently about the disease, there is much to learn. Zebrafish provide a great study model.
The melanophore cells in the fish are genetically very similar to human melanocytes.  Human melanocytes are responsible for hair, eye and skin color, said Cynthia Cooper, assistant professor of molecular biosciences at Washington State University Vancouver. Melanoma is a malignant tumor of the melanocytes.
“As we learn more and more about what maintains normal melanocyte properties and inhibits the development of melanoma, we’re going to be able to develop more specific treatments for this disease,” Cooper said.
Her Zebrafish Genetics Lab is lined with specially designed tanks, home to hundreds of the tiny fish. Their darting shimmer is highlighted by horizontal stripes along each side.
“Since zebrafish melanophores use many of the same genes as their human counterparts, we think we can learn a lot about the biology of human melanoma by studying these cells,” Cooper said.
She intends that her research will contribute to the understanding of melanoma and the efforts to combat it.
“Finding new genes and mechanisms that help these cells remain normal in humans could be very instrumental in understanding and preventing this disease” she said.
To learn more about Cooper’s research, click here