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SWT fish center receives $1.7 million grant, national recognition

Date of release: 06/03/02

SAN MARCOS, TEXAS A $1.7 million grant will strengthen a program at Southwest Texas State University that breeds a unique strain of fish prized by biomedical researchers worldwide.

SWT’s Xiphophorus Genetic Stock Center provides the scientific community with specimens of platyfish and swordtails that are direct descendants of a collection of fish first gathered more than 80 years ago. The grant, from the National Center of Research Resources, a component of the National Institutes of Health, will be paid over the next five years. In addition, the stock center receives designation as a National Scientific Resource Center.

The grant will allow for the continued maintenance of the center and distribution of research animals to investigators across the nation and globally for research in many fields, including endocrinology, immunology, toxicology, parasitology, and animal behavior. The number of researchers using this fish model has increased sharply in the last five years, and the stock center is the only source of pedigreed Xiphophorus lines in the world, according to Ronald Walter, director of the center and the Roy F. and Joann Cole Mitte Endowed Chair in Cancer Biochemistry at SWT.

Walter has directed the Xiphophorus Genetic Stock Center since its transfer from the New York Aquarium in 1992. With more than 1,200 aquaria and nearly 6,500 fish, the stock center is a unique source for researchers to obtain more than 60 pedigreed strains of this fish. Walter’s laboratory uses the fish largely for cancer research that received funding of $6.3 million in 1999 from the National Cancer Institute.

NCRR, the funding source, helps meet the needs of biomedical researchers for high-quality, disease-free animals and specialized animal research facilities.

“As a national resource center, we assume an obligation to supply researchers with pedigreed fish and information needed to assist their research efforts,” explains Walter, who seems ready for the challenge. “The stock center eliminates the need for other researchers to reinvent the genetic wheel. Once they receive the fish and assistance from the center, they will have data showing each fish’s pedigree, enabling them to perform complicated genetic experiments with relative ease.”

NCRR funding also provides the biomedical research community with access to diverse instrumentation, technologies, specialized basic and clinical research facilities, biomaterials, and more.

The SWT Stock Center is unique in the scientific community. The ancestors of many of the fish lines now at SWT were originally collected in Mexico and South America beginning in the 1920s. One species housed in the center is extinct in the wild, while two others are projected to be extinct within the next decade. Other fish lines are in their 97th generation of the brother-sister matings, making them clones, meaning fish in each breeding line are genetically identical.