What’s Black and White and Researched All Over?
Above: A mural of “Zippy the Zebrafish” decorates the new Aquatics Research Facility. From left: BWH’s Barbara Bierer, Angela Vail, Barry Paw, Calum Macrae, Caitlin Stewart-Swift and Wolfram Goessling gather for the facility’s opening.
With the opening of BWH's Aquatics Research Facility, zebrafish now have a new home
at the Brigham. The tiny, tropical freshwater fish are popular worldwide as a
model for studying animal and human development and disease due to their
transparent skin-which allows scientists to view their developing organs-and
their ability to quickly breed.
On March 4, the hospital officially opened its new aquatics facility, the first of
its kind at BWH. A ceremony was held last November to give the BWH research
community an opportunity to tour the 4,000 square-foot space.
Prior to the opening, BWH researchers had to store their aquatic specimens in small
satellite areas in their laboratories or lease spaces at other institutions.
Now, their zebrafish will be housed in 6,385 tanks holding more than 5,000
gallons of water altogether.
In addition to a large tank room, the facility also has a feed room, screening
room, lab space and a tank washing room. Designing and constructing the space
was a two-year effort involving the facility's three scientific co-directors
Calum Macrae, MD, PhD, of the Cardiovascular Division, Wolfram Goessling, MD,
PhD, of Genetics and Gastroenterology, and Barry Paw, MD, PhD, of Hematology, along
with Susan Malaab, senior project manager of BWH Real Estate and Facilities,
pre-clinical equipment company Tecniplast, and Boston-based architectural firm
Imai Keller Moore Architects.
"The facility demonstrates an amazing commitment to excellence at every level,"
said Macrae. "From the very first sketch, there were dedicated people who
took the steps to make this facility a reality. We hope to return the
generosity with a commitment to the very best science."
One of the unique features of the aquatics facility is a zebrafish monitoring
system that staff can access in real time from remote locations via mobile
devices or by computer to control such important parameters as water
temperature, pH level or oxygen concentration.
"The caliber of the monitoring system and our ability to maintain it so precisely
give us a sense of security and well-being for the fish and the research,"
said Caitlin Stewart-Swift, BWH Aquatics Facility manager. "Your
researchers aren't happy if your zebrafish aren't happy."
Of the thousands of zebrafish to inhabit the new facility, perhaps the most famous
is one that cannot fit in a tank. The state-of-the-art space is graced by a
mural of a zebrafish that staff have affectionately named "Zippy."
The unofficial mascot is the creation of Randall Imai, the founder of Imai
Keller Moore Architects.
"Randall made a Japanese zebrafish poster as a graduation gift for a colleague,"
said Malcolm Kent, principal architect of Imai Keller Moore Architects.
"We thought the fish graphic was so good, we had to use it in the
facility. So we enlarged it and placed it on the wall and the door."
With the mural, monitors and tanks in place, facility management is currently
reviewing applications from researchers interested in utilizing the space.
"We hope this is a facility that is dynamic and that supports interdisciplinary, interdepartmental and interinstitutional research in the most positive way," said Barbara
Bierer, MD, senior vice president of Research. "We appreciate
our research community's patience as we went through the process to open this
facility. We are now thrilled with the opening, and look forward to the
discoveries that will result."