Scientists here at Science Park have been studying fish. We study these fish to better understand how certain cancers develop in humans. The three groups of fish that we study are Northern Swordtails, Southern Swordtails, and Platyfish. These names probably sound familiar to you. That's because these fish are common at pet stores. We don't get our fish at the local pet store though. These fish are native to Mexico and Central America. So we go to Mexico to get them. That makes working with these fish even more fun!
What's So Special About These Fish?
In the 1920's scientists discovered that they could make hybrids between different fish species. In some cases, the offspring would show traits from both parents. They looked like a combination of the two parents.
In other cases, the offspring were very different from either parent. For example, a parent with a pigment pattern would pass that pattern on to the offspring. The offspring's pigmentation would be much stronger than the parent's, though.
Scientists also discovered that these hybrid fish sometimes developed melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. Humans also can develop melanoma. The hybrids were at a greater risk of developing melanoma because their pigment producing cells were not always working correctly. Scientists took a closer look at the hybrids and realized that they had discovered an animal model that would be useful in the study of human cancer.