The University of Massachusetts Amherst

In Pictures

  • Mutant zebrafish swimming with an accordion-like motion

Accordion Swimming Reveals Link to Maple Syrup Urine Disease

The mutant zebrafish questschkommode (que) exhibits an unusual “accordion behavior,” where it compresses on the nose-to-tail axis while swimming, rather than moving its fins from left to right. Neuroscientist Gerald Downes and his team saw a potential link between the abnormal swimming behavior and the abnormal movements and twisted limbs that affect patients with the metabolic disorder Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD). Five years later, they identified a mutation in a zebrafish gene similar in function to the human gene responsible for proper metabolic function, opening up new possibilities for treating humans with the disease. “It’s fantastic to solve this mystery,” says Downes. Learn more.

Photo credit: Gerald Downes