So what do you and a zebrafish have in common?

A lot, as it turn out. Seventy percent, as a matter of fact.

Utah Tech University showcased its new Center for Precision & Functional Genomics and the Variant Science Training Program with an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony held on campus on Friday.

Smack dab in the middle of the science is the common zebrafish.

According to the Elizabeth Burke with the Intramural Research Program website:

"Although humans may appear to be extremely different than zebrafish, we are actually much more similar to them than you might think. In fact, 70% of human genes are found in zebrafish(external link). Moreover, zebrafish have two eyes, a mouth, brain, spinal cord, intestine, pancreas, liver, bile ducts, kidney, esophagus, heart, ear, nose, muscle, blood, bone, cartilage, and teeth. Many of the genes and critical pathways that are required to grow these features are highly conserved between humans and zebrafish. Thus, any type of disease that causes changes in these body parts in humans could theoretically be modeled in zebrafish."

The event included a tour of the space, located in Utah Tech’s Science, Engineering & Technology Building, as well as hands-on experience in the lab and opportunities to talk to the students about the new program.

Functional genomics is an area of research focused on newly-discovered mutations and the role they play on human health. Zebrafish are utilized in the lab because they share 70 percent of their genes with humans, making them useful model organisms in functional genomics discoveries.

“This new center aligns with Utah Tech’s polytechnic mission including a state-of-the-art lab and opportunities for our students to participate in cutting-edge programs,” Utah Tech President Richard B. Williams said. “These real-world, hands-on training experiences will prepare our students to be successful researchers, doctors, entrepreneurs and scientists.”

Recognizing the value and importance of this work, Congressman Chris Stewart secured $790,000 in funding for the Variant Science Training Program through Federal Community Project funding. Other key partners contributing to the center include Laura Atwood, Intermountain Foundation, Culmination Bio and Adelmarie Murphy, who provided the first fellowship for student research at the center.

“We look forward to providing impactful opportunities to our students during their college journey,” Aaron Davis, associate dean for the College of Science, Engineering & Technology, said. “We’re confident this is just the beginning.”

Students participating in this program can obtain a Functional Genomics Certificate as well as certificates in Bioinformatics, Protein Characterizations, Genetic Sequencing and Variant Science.

For more information about degrees for the College of Science, Engineering & Technology, visit

attachment-Zebrafish lab


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