Using animals in research

Xenopus Resource Centre

A living, transgenic Xenopus tadpole in which neural tissue fluoresces red

Matt Guille, Professor of Developmental Biology, leads the Xenopus Resource Centre, which is the largest frog facility in the world. Xenopus are fully aquatic South African clawed frogs whose eggs are used to investigate the basic processes of life so that the fundamental nature of diseases can be understood.

“Our work involves examining how genes are switched on and off again, a process that is the same in cells of both frogs and humans. We have found that structures in DNA, rather than the DNA sequence itself, control some critical parts of the genome and this now opens up a whole new area of research to discover whether any diseases are caused by changes in these structures.

“It is also possible to use Xenopus as a tool to study particular human diseases, and we have worked with Professor Gorecki to understand some genetic changes in the dystrophin complex (responsible for muscular dystrophy) that cannot be modelled in mice. We are currently developing frogs that allow our collaborators to study heart, vascular, muscle and kidney disease. These frogs will reduce the need for mice to be used in such studies.” says Matt. 

Photo caption: A living, transgenic Xenopus tadpole in which neural tissue fluoresces red whilst the lens of the eye and developing kidney glow green.