Dr. Jason Berman is a pioneer in using the zebrafish model to study leukemia and other blood disorders.
Remarkably, these small tropical fish have similar genetics and blood systems to humans, which is very humbling. Because they reproduce externally and their larvae are transparent, the zebrafish provides a “window” into normal blood development. Genetic manipulation enables the ability to introduce cancer-causing genes into the zebrafish to generate models of human leukemia. Additionally, human leukemia cells can be easily transplanted into zebrafish larvae without rejection and these cells grow and divide inside the fish, providing an opportunity to test drug responses simply by adding compounds to the water in which the fish are bathed. In this way, the zebrafish serves as a rapid and cost-effective initial platform for testing new treatments in the preclinical therapeutic pipeline. Also, since these studies can be performed in the span of a week, the zebrafish transplant model can help inform more personalized response-based treatment approaches for individual patients.
Jason Berman, MD FRCPC FAAP
Attending Physician, Division of Hematology/Oncology
Associate Chair Research, Department of Pediatrics
IWK Health Centre
Professor of Pediatrics, Microbiology & Immunology, and Pathology