Zebrafish have become an increasingly common model organism used in biomedical research to address human health issues. Research performed in zebrafish may advance methods that can be applied to improve aquaculture. While working at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Dr. Benjamin Renquist was focused on identifying the genetic causes of obesity and developing drugs to combat the obesity epidemic. Because obesity is associated with decreased energy expenditure, Dr. Renquist focused on developing a high-throughput energy expenditure assay in fish that could be used to identify genes or drugs that could be manipulated to prevent obesity. The assay he developed can be simultaneously applied to thousands of embryonic fish.
The Renquist lab has begun to assess the application of this assay in embryonic fish to predict the genetic potential for growth. The Renquist lab has conducted initial growth trials in tilapia, which suggest that fish with a high metabolic rate may grow up to 30% faster than those with a low metabolic rate. Further studies in tilapia are focused on the relationship between metabolic rate and feed conversion ratio.