Rebecca Anderson, a student in the Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences, received the Children’s Research Fund Outstanding Graduate Student Award in recognition of her research that uses zebrafish to study bone development to better understand skeletal dysplasia, as well as her teaching and mentoring activities.
The award consists of $5000 for research-related supplies and is funded by the Children’s Research Fund Board, affiliated with the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
“This award is very helpful because there are certain experiments I’d like to do that are expensive,” Anderson said. “I would like to analyze differences between wild type and mutant fish using mass spectrometry.”
Anderson studies a spontaneous mutation that results in enhanced ossification, or bone formation, in zebrafish in the lab of Jacek Topczewski, PhD, research associate professor in Pediatrics-Developmental Biology and director of Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute Fish Facility.
“I’m trying to learn why our zebrafish mutant has abnormal bone development. Hopefully, this will aid in developing new treatments for skeletal dysplasia in humans,” Anderson said. “Gaining more knowledge about bone development and what signaling pathways and genes are responsible for different types of bone formation is very important.”
Skeletal dysplasia encompasses 175 different types of skeletal abnormalities, often resulting from mutated genes, which can be inherited or sporadic.
Anderson’s research characterizes the bones in a mutant zebrafish line to uncover information about the genes that cause the abnormal phenotype. In preliminary research, she has found a mutated regulatory element that she thinks may affect a gene playing a key role in bone development.
“It’s interesting because it isn’t as simple as bones forming too early or too late; this is really an enhanced ossification, and once the bone starts growing, it grows uncontrollably,” she said. “This type of bone malformation hasn’t been characterized in fish. It’s exciting, and hopefully understanding this mutation will help us understand more about bone development.”