When Dr. Jason Berman arrived at CHEO in 2019 to become the CEO and Scientific Director of the CHEO Research Institute, he brought his zebrafish and opened The Berman Lab, the only lab in Canada focused on using zebrafish to study cancer. Despite their appearance, these small tropical zebrafish are genetically very similar to humans. They have all the same genes, cells and tissues as humans, which allows researchers to study genetic diseases like cancer.
Thanks to their translucent skin, researchers can observe how cancer tumours grow and how they respond to experimental interventions. Also, zebrafish reproduce very quickly which means hundreds or thousands of fish and multiple generations can be tested at one time. This innovative work includes the transplantation of human cancer cells into zebrafish and genome editing to introduce specific human mutations. This pioneering work puts the CHEO Research Institute at the forefront of cancer research, attracting gifted scientists from all over the world and complimenting the work of other labs across the country.