This confocal image shows the projections of sensory neurons in the skin of zebrafish larvae, which allow it to sense touch stimuli. By studying zebrafish, Biologist Gerald Downes hopes to bring new understanding to how spinal cords are assembled and how they function. The zebrafish embryo has several characteristics that make it particularly well-suited to study spinal cord networks. The embryos demonstrate robust swimming behavior, their spinal cords are relatively simple compared to mammalian spinal cords, the embryos are transparent so spinal cord development can be easily observed, and a large array of genetic resources are available. Since spinal cord organization is broadly conserved among vertebrates, this work holds promise to provide insight into mammalian spinal cords. Learn more.
Photo credit: Gerald Downes Research Group