In DepthDevelopment

Blind cave fish may provide insights into human health

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Science  24 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6293, pp. 1502-1503
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6293.1502

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Degenerated retinas, globs of liver fat, wildly fluctuating blood sugar and insulin levels—all can spell trouble for people. But they are a way of life for Astyanax mexicanus, better known as the blind cave fish or Mexican tetra. For decades, biologists have studied these pale 6-centimeter-long fish to understand the ecological and evolutionary effects of subterranean life. Now, some researchers argue that the fishes' adaptations can shed light on human diseases including retinal degeneration and diabetes. And results presented last week at the 2016 International Conference on Subterranean Biology back up that view. The U.S. National Institutes of Health sees promise in cave fish as well, having agreed to fund the work of several cave fish biologists.

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