CORVALLIS, Ore. - Aquatic animals from zebrafish to sea urchins increasingly are being used as models to study human disease and many of the world's leading experts in these fields will convene at Oregon State University Sept. 20-22 to discuss their findings.

The fifth annual Aquatic Animal Models for Human Disease conference, held at LaSells Stewart Center on the OSU campus, will feature numerous talks, panel discussions and workshops. More information on the conference, including registration, is available online at:

Some of the sessions will focus on the use of zebrafish to study human disease and scientists at OSU and the University of Oregon are among the international leaders in this field. Robert Tanguay, a professor in OSU's Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, is principal investigator on a five-year, $850,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to begin training veterinary school graduates on the use of zebrafish and other aquatic animals to study human diseases.

"A surprisingly large number of human diseases can be modeled in fish," said Tanguay, who heads the Sinnhuber Aquatic Research Laboratory at OSU. "With about 80 percent of genes in humans also present in these fish, they present an opportunity to more rapidly understand the cause of human disease."

A session on Tuesday, Sept. 21, will look at the relationship between oceans and human health. Among the speakers will be John Incardona, an ecotoxicology specialist with NOAA Fisheries, who will present an overview of ubiquitous air and water pollutants found in fish.

Other sessions at the conference will examine the role of aquatic animal models; mutagenesis and carcinogenesis; fish genomics; tissue regeneration and aging; infectious disease and immunity; and behavior and central nervous system disease.

Among the local presenters are:

  • David Williams, OSU Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, will discuss the use of rainbow trout to estimate the carcinogenic potential of common chemicals;
  • Michael Kent, OSU Department of Microbiology, will chair a workshop on aquatic animal health and disease management;
  • Zoltan Varga, the University of Oregon Zebrafish International Resource Center, will lead a workshop on germplasm and managing genetic resources;
  • John Postlethwait, University of Oregon Institute of Neuroscience, will discuss comparative genomics for all fish;
  • OSU's Robert Tanguay will lead the session on tissue regeneration and aging.

More than 100 scientists from around the country are expected to attend, representing many of the country's leading research universities and federal agencies.

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Robert Tanguay, 541-737-6514