Lillian Cruz-Orengo, PhD – Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology

Pioneering a Blood Brain Barrier Disruption Model in Zebrafish

Our brain is the most important organ in our body. For such reason the brain and spinal cord, together known as central nervous system (CNS), are guarded by a “fence” called the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The BBB is a protective tissue that prevents most large molecules, toxins, pathogens and cells found in the blood from entering into the brain and spinal cord.

When the BBB doesn’t perform well the brain and spinal cord become susceptible to toxic exposure, infection, inflammation, etc causing the CNS to perform poorly. There are many diseases of the CNS that are related to this “breach” of the BBB. However, live animal models to distinguish if toxic compounds, including pesticides, can cause this “breach” and where exactly in the CNS this rupture is happening are missing. It is my purpose to develop a model to observe this process and its location within the brain using zebrafish.

Moreover, I want to expose the zebrafish to toxic pesticides that are used here in California, to identify the damage that these pesticides are causing to the BBB and where in the brain this damage is happening. I will identify BBB damage by measuring the leakage of neon tracers into the brain and the breakdown of the “bonding” that keeps together the “bricks” of the BBB “fence”. Awareness of this rupture shall motivate us to look for ways to prevent toxic compounds exposure, keeping our brains well-guarded.