Working with zebrafish: We have established a zebrafish-breeding colony, which we will use as our experimental animal model. The zebrafish just got a big splash in "Science Magazine" because it is one of the premier animals to be used in genomics and molecular biology. This is because of its rapid development as an embryo and its transparent mature which makes it ideal for analyzing treatments of various types or gene alterations whose effects can be visually recognized in these animals.
Figure 1. Normally developing zebrafish with control ERS treatment. The zebrafish has normally developing eyes (E) and a small cardiac sac (CS) which is not enlarged, as well as a straight body. There are no physical abnormalities apparent. After one to two days, full sensory-motor function would be displayed.
Trophic factors in the development and recovery of the damaged nervous and cardiovascular systems: I have been fortunate during my research career to have pioneered a new field in the visual sciences, retinal transplantation, which now has its own section at national and international vision meetings. I have also been pleased to see my biomedical findings translated into clinical research in this area. I have been awarded over $3.5 million in grant funding to support this work from public, private, and industrial sources and published over 100 scientific papers.
Figure 2. Photomicrograph depicting the immunohistochemical visualization of znp-1 stained CaP and MiP primary motor neurons at 96 hours post fertilization in the zebrafish trunk muscles.
We are interested in the effects of various trophic-protective drugs in the mutant strains of zebrafish that mimic human brain and cardiovascular disease conditions such as macular degeneration and Alzheimer's disease. Our ultimate goal is to screen potential drugs for their ability to successively treat brain and cardiovascular disorders and to understand their mechanisms of action at the molecular, biochemical and cellular levels. We will be using histological, immunocytochemical, biochemical and molecular biological techniques to help answer some of these questions.
Figure 3. Confocal microscopic observations depicting the posterior trunk blood vascular supply in the developing transgenic (TG(fil1:EGFP) y1/+y1 (AB)) zebrafish at 6 days post fertilization using a green fluorescent protein marker.
Publications: (Selected recent publications, all with undergraduates at VMI)
Turner, JE 2005 The Institutionalization of Undergraduate research at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). CUR Quarterly, 25 (3): 108-112.
Yang-Hsi Tsai, Jaime L. Heimbegner, John J. Beck, and James E. Turner, 2006, Herbal extracts from Cortex mountan exhibits
antioxident potential, inhibits T cell-induced apoptosis, and possess antimicrobial activities. J Undergraduate Chem. Res., 5(1):33-40.
Alia Hamad, Matthew Kluk, Joshua Fox, Matthew Park, and James E. Turner, 2007, The Effects of Aromatase Inhibitors (AIs) and Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs) On Eye Development in the Zebrafish (Danio rerio). Current Eye Research , 32:819-827.
Bryan Nelson, Russ P Henriet, Andrew W. Holt, Katherine C. Bopp, Alexander P. :Houser, Ottei E. Allgood, and James E. Turner, 2008, The Role of Estrogen on the Developmental Appearance of Sensory-Motor Behaviors in the Zebrafish (Danio rerio): The Characterization of the “Listless” Model . Brain Res., 1222:118-128.
Alexander Houser, Christopher McNair, Ross Piccinini, Andrew Luxhoj, Wade E. Bell and James. E. Turner. 2011. Effects of Estrogen on the Neuromuscular System in the Embryonic Zebrafish (Danio rerio). Brain Res. 1381:106-116.