Model Organism

Our lab uses zebrafish to study the signaling mechanisms that determine heart size. As a vertebrate model organism, zebrafish provide a variety of advantages. They lay large numbers of externally developing, transparent embryos, which we can easily manipulate using genetic, molecular and cellular methods. Although the embryonic zebrafish heart is composed of a single ventricle and atrium, the events of early cardiac development are similar to those of mammalian hearts. In addition, the early zebrafish heart has relatively few cells, making individual cardiac cells tractable. The combination of available tools and relative simplicity of the heart make zebrafish an ideal model organism to study the mechanisms of vertebrate heart formation.


Waxman Lab Rotations

A rotation in the Waxman Lab will quickly familiarize the student with basic principles of early zebrafish and heart development, and fundamental manipulation techniques such as microinjection, in situ hybridization and whole mount immunofluorescence. For students who may have experience working with zebrafish, we can design a project that would complement and build on that previous experience.

Rotation projects typically involve research related to the broad interests of the lab in organogenesis and signaling, but can be tailored to the student’s specific scientific interests, research experience and goals. Examples of broad subject areas for potential rotation projects include:

  • Elucidation of the mechanisms by which novel effectors restrict heart size
  • Characterization of novel zebrafish mutants affecting heart size
  • Elucidation of the mechanisms dictating individual chamber formation
  • Exploration of the molecular and genetic mechanisms of signaling pathways involved in heart and forelimb formation
  • Illumination of the molecular and genetic mechanisms of cardiac cell specification


Interested students can arrange a meeting via email or in person to discuss rotation projects.

Model Organisms - zebrafish image.
Zebrafish embryo 48 hours after fertilization 

Swimming Zebrafish

Adult zebrafish can be happily maintained in space efficient aquaria.

Zebrafish Early Development

DIC movie of a zebrafish embryo starting at the two cell stage continuing through the end of gastrulation (~10 hrs).