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Research breakthrough a splashing success

CSIRO : 07 October, 2006  (Technical Article)
Collaboration between Flinders University and CSIRO
The cells have been successfully grown for more than 50 generations and are now considered to be ‘immortal’.

Aquafin Cooperative Research Centre PhD student Alexandra Korte, whose project’s focus is to use cells to study tuna physiology, said: “Producing the SBT cell lines has been very time-consuming, but thankfully, our persistence, and a bit of serendipity, has paid off.”

Scientists at CSIRO and Flinders University are now using the cell lines to conduct two distinct areas of research. The beauty of this work is that instead of using large live fish, which is expensive and difficult, scientists can use cells grown in small plastic culture vessels.

Dr Mark Crane from CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory could use the cells to hunt for viruses in SBT.

“The great advantage of cell lines is that we can grow viruses in the laboratory outside the host animal. The use of tuna cell lines will greatly facilitate research to determine whether viruses are associated with tuna and if so how to manage them.

“Screening tuna broodstock for viruses is especially important in production systems where the lifecycle has been closed. As the cell line is susceptible to a broad range of fish viruses, there is potential for broodstock and young fry to be screened and certified virus-free,” Dr Crane said.

Dr Mark Crane from CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory could use the cells to hunt for viruses in SBT. At Flinders University, the cell lines are being used to test natural antioxidants that may improve the flesh quality and extend the shelf life of SBT destined for the Japanese sashimi market. The researchers also hope that the antioxidants will better preserve the high levels of healthy omega-3 fatty acids already present in SBT.

With the cell lines, Flinders University’s Dr Kathy Schuller can now simultaneously test 24 different antioxidants or antioxidant combinations within a week. This compares with years to do the same experiments with live fish. The research team is providing insights into the best concentrations and combinations of antioxidants to be added to SBT feeds to maximize flesh quality.

“While establishing immortal cell lines was time consuming, it was a pleasing and particularly useful outcome for the tuna industry. This is one of the benefits of working as part of a CRC,” Dr Schuller said.

This research is part of an Aquafin CRC project led by Dr Philip Thomas and supported by the Tuna Boat Owners Association of South Australia. This project receives funds from the tuna industry, the Australian Government’s CRC program, the Fisheries R&D Corporation and other Aquafin CRC participants.
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