Movie maker

Zebrafish star in amazing tale

Kate Saili’s films won’t show in theaters any time soon, but they do feature zebrafish, a rising star in molecular biology, in a dramatic role — regenerating tissues that have been injured.

Kate Saili videos zebrafish in the act of regenerating their tails (Contributed photo)

Kate Saili videos zebrafish in the act of regenerating their tails (Contributed photo)

Saili, who grew up in Kalispell, Montana, studies the effect of nanomaterials on inflammation. She uses transgenic zebrafish whose white blood cells fluoresce under ultraviolet light. White blood cells are foot soldiers in the inflammation process, and in her experiments, Saili observes that process as it proceeds in the presence of nanomaterials.

First, Saili immerses a zebrafish in an anesthetic. Then she removes the tip of the tailfin. As the fish’s immune system kicks in, Saili places the animal in a solution containing nanomaterials that have been designed by a scientist at Tennessee State University potentially to treat inflammation. Through a microscope, she captures images of the white blood cells rushing to the injured fin.

“I’m really interested in how the immune system works,” says Saili, who has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Carroll College in Helena, Montana. Her studies show that fewer white blood cells migrate to the site of the injured fin when certain gold- or silver-based nanomaterials are present. “All we can say for sure is that nanoparticles are reducing the number of white bloods cells that migrate to or remain at the site of an injury. We don’t know why,” she adds.

Before coming to OSU, Saili was studying wildlife in American Samoa. Someday, she would like to monitor wildlife health and apply what she learns to human health. “I think you can get a lot farther and do lot more interesting and relevant work with a molecular foundation. What I want to do is investigate a disease, look at the mechanics behind it. I came to OSU,” she says, “because I knew it has a good toxicology program.”

Saili is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology.

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