[UW Today] Vitamin B-12, and a knockoff version, create complex market for marine vitamins

Associate Professor Ingalls – referenced in this UW Today Article – teaches the “OCEAN 295: Chemistry of Marine Organic Carbon” course annually. This course can be taken in place of CHEM 220 for the Aquatic & Fishery Sciences and Oceanography majors.

An oceanographic sampler, known as a rosette, during a 2013 cruise in the North Pacific. Each bottle contains water from different depths, which is how researchers collected samples of the vitamins at sea.

The New Year is a busy time for pharmacies and peddlers of all health-related products. In the oceans, marine organisms rely on nutrients, too, but the source of their vitamins is sometimes mysterious.

University of Washington oceanographers have now found that vitamin B-12 exists in two distinct versions in the oceans. A microbe thought to be a main supplier of B-12 in the open oceans, cyanobacteria, is actually making a “pseudo” version that only its kin can use.

The study has implications for where algae and other organisms can get a vitamin that is essential to fueling marine life. The paper is in the Jan. 10 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“I think the world is getting used to the idea that all lifeforms are in some ways dependent on microorganisms,” said corresponding author Anitra Ingalls, a UW associate professor of oceanography. “This is another case where microorganisms are playing a really big role in the survival of others, but not quite in the way that we had expected.”

[read the full article at UW Today]


[UW Health Sciences NewsBeat] Tiny zebrafish makes a big research splash

Zebrafish studies are contributing knowledge in many medical areas, including cancer, hearing loss, infectious diseases and regenerative medicine.
Zebrafish studies are contributing knowledge in many medical areas, including cancer, hearing loss, infectious diseases and regenerative medicine.

It measures one-inch long. It can heal its heart and regrow some amputated parts. It shares nearly three quarters of our genetic code and reproduces at rates that would make a rabbit blush.

It’s teaching landlubbers an extraordinary amount about what can go wrong inside our bodies.

Meet the tiny zebrafish. Once upon a time, this striped tropical fish mostly swam in aquariums in homes and offices. Since the 1990s, a growing number of scientists have embraced zebrafish as a powerful model to study disease. They’re cheap, spawn by the hundreds, and develop outside their mothers’ bodies. They’re the live fish equivalent of The Visible Man see-through anatomical model.

No wonder the National Institutes of Health recently analyzed grant data and found a 60 percent jump in studies of zebrafish over the past seven years.

Across the UW Health Sciences, 15 principal investigators use zebrafish to study everything from vision and hearing loss to cancer and toxicology. They’re a chummy bunch who meet regularly to discuss current research. The Fish Club is passionate about their tiny subjects. Dr. Susan Brockerhoff, who studies retinal diseases, has been to known use “Zebra Eye” as an online username.

“Once you work with zebrafish, you realize how amazing they are,” said Dr. Eleanor Chen, assistant professor of pathology. She first worked with them in grad school, where their transparency appealed to her as a former art student. Researchers like Chen can easily observe what happens during embryonic development: cells sliding around, organs forming, hearts beginning to beat.

[Read the full story at UW Health Sciences NewsBeat]


[UW Today] “Our closest worm kin regrow body parts, raising hopes of regeneration in humans”

Think marine biology isn’t related to human health? Read a profile of the research done by Professor Billie Swalla and UW Biology doctoral student Shawn Luttrell on the regeneration properties of the acorn worm.

A new study of one of our closest invertebrate relatives, the acorn worm, reveals that this feat might one day be possible. Acorn worms burrow in the sand around coral reefs, but their ancestral relationship to chordates means they have a genetic makeup and body plan surprisingly similar to ours.

[read the full article]

 

An intact, live acorn worm. The head is on the far left, and the worm will be cut in the middle.
An intact, live acorn worm. The head is on the far left, and the worm will be cut in the middle.