The ambition of the VIB Center for Cancer Biology (CCB) is to contribute to a better understanding of the biology that underlies cancer initiation, progression and metastatic dissemination with the ultimate goal to develop more effective and specific anti-cancer (combination) therapies.
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Managing PI: P. Carmeliet, L. Van Den Bosch, H. Gerhardt, M. Santoro
Zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a small aquatic vertebrate model that has already proven it invaluable power as a tool for the molecular deciphering of various biological processes. Hallmark features are a high fecundity (thousands of eggs on a weekly basis), rapid and extracorporeal development offering direct access to all embryonic stages, transparency during the first phases of embryonic development, and the availibility of numerous fluorescent reporter lines reporting specific internal organs or tissues and enabling easy visualization of these structures in a dynamic manner.
In addition, zebrafish are amenable to transient (morpholino oligonucleotide-mediated knockdown) or permanent (CRISPR/Cas9 mediated gene knockout or mutation, Tol2 transposon mediated transgenesis) genetic modulation of gene expression, as well as to pharmacological interference with protein function. Zebrafish embryos are thus particularly attractive models to identify or characterize regulatory molecules of diverse biological processes at a fast pace.
The VRC zebrafish facility comprises a 50–square meter temperature- and light-controlled room equipped with a 5-rack and a 4-rack semi-closed recirculating housing system (ZebTec Multilinking Systems, Tecniplast), a similar 45-square meter room equipped with a 9-rack ZebTec Multilinking System (Tecniplast) and a quarantaine room equipped with a semi-closed recirculating Standalone table-top system (Tecniplast). The total housing capacity of the facility is up to 15,000 zebrafish (ca 1,000 3.5L tanks). Adjacent laboratory rooms are equipped with injection set-ups for egg and embryo injection, incubators for embryo raising, fluorescence stereomicroscopy, and related small accessory equipment.
The VRC has also access to the general aquatic facility of the Laboratory Animal Centre of the KU Leuven for housing of the aquatic model Xenopus (African clawed frog; X. laevis and X. tropicalis) and to the adjacent Xenopus laboratory room.
Chemicogenetics for gene and drug discovery
Genetic gain-of-function strategies (Tol2, mRNA overexpression), genetic loss-of-function approaches (morpholino antisense oligonucleotide based knockdown, CRISPR/Cas9 mediated gene knockout) and pharmacological inhibitor treatment approaches are applied by several groups of the VRC, along with high resolution fluorescent imaging and other phenotyping techniques.