The Aquatic Biotechnology and Environmental Laboratory (ABEL), constructed with support from the Georgia Research Alliance, was completed in 2002. As it's name conveys, ABEL was designed to serve as a unique research facility devoted to the study of aquatic organisms used as animal models in biomedical and environmental research using the modern tools of molecular biology and biotechnology.
ABEL combines, under the same roof (8500 ft2), laboratories for aquatic animal culture, chemical and physical mutagen exposure, animal nursery, microscopy, and molecular biology. Advanced instrumentation for analyzing DNA, including capillary-based sequencing and real-time PCR, are available in-house. Specialized equipment for performing toxicant exposures are also available.
Currently, ABEL houses several strains of medaka (shown here), including transgenic lines in freshwater systems, and transgenic and non-transgenic populations of Fundulus heteroclitus in re-circulating saltwater systems. ABEL is becoming widely recognized as an important resource for researchers seeking to use fish as animal models.
Numerous researchers, and students from the US, Canada, Japan, France, United Kingdom, and elsewhere have received training in the use of the fish, aquatic animal facility design, as well as in various techniques in mutation analyses, toxicology and biotechnology. In addition, fish have been been widely distributed to researchers for study.
A major focus of our research is on the analysis of mutations in the unique transgenic fish models we developed. Using the similar approach as that in transgenic rodent mutation models, transgenic lineages of fish carry transgenes that serve as targets for mutations. These genes can be easily recovered from tissues of interest and analyzed for mutations.
We selected the mummichog, Fundulus heteroclitus (shown here), and the medaka, Oryzias latipes (shown above), as the focus of our laboratory because these small fish species provide a variety of important benefits in biomedical and environmental research, including small size, ease of laboratory culture and manipulation, and excellent responsiveness to chemical contaminant exposure. They are widely used in environmental toxicology, genetics, and other disciplines. Medaka has been described as the small fish species of choice in carcinogenesis bioassays, and in studies of germ-cell mutagenesis.