A close up of a researcher holding up (wearing white gloves) and looking through a clear plastic aquarium with nine zebrafish swimming inside

Neuron regeneration in zebrafish

Neuron regeneration in zebrafish

The tiny tropical zebrafish may hold vital information about how to repair neurodegeneration in MND.

Understanding neuron development

Zebrafish embryos are transparent, have a relatively simple nervous system, and develop quickly, all of which makes them highly useful to investigate how neurons (nerve cells) develop. In particular, our scientists use zebrafish to study the development of axons that are wrapped in a substance called myelin. Axons are the part of the neuron that electrical impulses travel along from the cell body to other cells. Myelin acts as an 'insulator' to speed up the transmission of these electrical impulses.

Spinal cord repair

Zebrafish have a remarkable ability to recover after injury to their spinal cord. They can make a full recovery after spinal cord nerve injury within just four weeks, whereas in humans this same injury would cause permanent paralysis.

Our scientists are leading the way in working out the cell components that give the fish this amazing capacity. Ultimately, the aim is to work out how to kick-start the same process in human cells.

Screening drugs

The hi-tech zebrafish screening robot whirrs day-in, day-out, taking detailed pictures of live fish whose water contains tiny doses of chemicals, to look for changes in nerve growth.

Any promising leads, such as a chemical that increases nerve growth, are taken immediately to the stem cell lab for testing on human cells. Learn more about human cell testing in our research case study Stem cells and MND 'in a dish'.

Meet the researchers

Watch Professor Catherina Becker explain her research on nervous system repair.