Research Topics

Zebrafish for Innovation and Research

Our lab is interested in uncovering the function of developmental regulatory genes through molecular and genetic analyses in the zebrafish. We study genes involved in specification and differentiation of neural cells and the networks that regulate their expression. We are currently working on the following projects:

Development of the lateral line

The lateral line is a mechanosensory organ that allows fish and aquatic amphibians to sense movements in the surrounding environment. Mechanosensation is perceived throughout the body by a series of small sensory patches called neuromasts, clusters of hair cells (similar to those of the inner ear of mammals) surrounded by accesory cells. Importantly, hair cells are constantly renewed in fish, and they can be entirely replaced if hair cells are destroyed mechanically or by toxicity. Our interest lies in identifying genes that participate in the differentiation of the different cell types in this sensory system as well as understanding how hair cells regenerate after damage.

Regeneration of the components of the lateralis system

The remarkable regenerative capacity of the zebrafish mechanosensory system extends beyond hair cells. Sectioning the lateral line nerve or of individual axons is followed by quick degeneration of the distal fragment and regeneration of new fibers. We are trying to understand how the newly growing projections correctly navigate back to their original targets. In addition, caudal tail sectioning is followed by regeneration of the fin and subsequent regeneration of the entire lateral line in the regrown tail. How cells in the remaining sensory system acquire plasticity to repopulate the new territory and how they reorganize into a functional system is being analyzed.


Role of the innate immune system

Zebrafish embryos develop functional innate immunity one day after fertilization. Expression of molecules involved in inflammation and innate immune cell migration are expressed during embryogenesis in specific tissues, which are poised to respond to potential infections and tissue damage. We have established a protocol for the study of the rapid innate immune response to external injury and we are analyzing which signaling molecules are implicated in this response, as well as in resolution of inflammation. We are also interested in the transcriptional targets of the Interferon Regulatory Factor 5 gene.mpoCu


Applied projects

We are interested in developing the zebrafish as a technological tool for biomedical, veterinarian and environmental research. Our use of transgenic fish, genomic and genetic approaches, advanced imaging technologies and  molecular analyses places us in a unique position in Chile to undertake this challenge. We are especially interested in developing assays applicable to improving fish livestock health and environmental monitoring. We have also developed experimental tools applicable in cancer, immunology and toxicological research. We aim to interact with private and governmental partners interested in our expertise. You can visit our web page aimed at services and outreach with industry: Metazoan Technologies (in Spanish).logo MZT


We actively collaborate with several foreign groups including those of:

Alvaro Sagasti, UCLA, USA.
Mario Rosemblatt, Fundación Ciencias para la Vida, Santiago, Chile
Steve Wilson, University College London. London, UK
Shawn Burgess, NHGRI, NIH, Bethesda, USA
Nora Calcaterra, Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina
Alain Ghysen, Universite de Montpellier, Montpellier, France
Juan Ramón Martínez, CABD, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Sevilla, Spain
Gareth Owen, P Universidad Católica de Chile. Santiago, Chile

Development of the lateral line
See a list of our publications.
 Go to our page in ZFIN

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