Simulating viral infection
Scientist Marit Seppola at Fiskeriforskning is studying the viral defence in cod and says that they are injecting synthetic DNA from viruses inside the fish. Afterwards, they can study which genes are involved in the immune system.
"This is only a simulated viral infection, but it is used because it often causes a stronger response in the immune system than an ordinary viral infection. Nevertheless, the results can give us indications about which genes are important for fighting viral infections", says Seppola.
"To find the genes that are important in the immune system, we have created a "genetic library" that consists of a collection of different genes. At present, this collection contains 350 genes, and we are about to study some of these genes more closely."
Gene becomes 800 times more active
One of the genes Seppola has worked with is called ISG15. It appears that the gene's activity in the cod increases as much as 800 times during a simulated viral infection.
"We can measure this increase already the day following the injection, which can mean that this gene can be an important part of the cod's first defence against viral infections. This can again mean that we are about to reveal some of the on-buttons in the cod's immune system. But there is still a long way to go", says Seppola.
"This is time-consuming pure research and when we are dealing with cod, we have virtually started with a blank page because there has been little research on which genes are involved in the immune system in this species. With this project, we hope we can better understand how the immune system works in the cod", she says in closing.
The project is a collaboration between Fiskeriforskning and the Norwegian College of Fishery Science in Troms and is financed by the Research Council of Norway and Fiskeriforskning. The project will run over five years and started in 2004.
Source: Fiskeriforskning - 20th April 2006