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K Grad Studies Desert Fish With a Far Eye Cast to Cancer

Claire Riggs ’11 received a pre-doctoral fellowship from the National Science Foundation, a prestigious award that allows her to continue research on killifish embryos as she works on her doctorate at Portland State University. Her research was the subject of an article (“Life in the Extreme”) by Maya Seaman that appeared in the publication, Vanguard. Killifish embryos can survive pretty tough conditions–in extreme heat, without water, and, believe it or not, without oxygen. Riggs studies the role of the fish embryos’ microDNA in their ability to go dormant and survive in anoxic environments. For killifish embryos, such dormancy is characterized by a reduction of metabolism, inhibition of cell development, and stoppage of the heart beat … up to 90 days … without harm! Clues to how this process works, should it ever prove applicable to humans, could eventually have important potential for cancer therapy and treatment of heart attack and stroke.

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