- Zebrafish as a resource for ecotoxicogenomics research: This project involves the creation of computational resources for ecotoxicogenomics, the systemic study of genes, biochemical pathways and networks perturbed by the presence of environmental toxins. We use zebrafish, Danio rerio for aquatic toxicology (previously, we used fathead minnow, Pimephales promelas). For these experiments, we expose developing fish to various environmental toxins, including psychoactive pharmaceuticals and nanomaterials, to test hypotheses about potential human health implications.
- The biological and human health significance of unmetabolized psychoactive pharmaceuticals in aquatic systems: Our primary use of the zebrafish model is to investigate the biological and human health significance of unmetabolized pharmaceuticals in aquatic systems. The significance of these drugs, which have passed unchanged through humans and sewer treatment facilities, is controversial since the occur in extremely low concentrations in streams and, eventually, drinking water. The Thomas lab tests the hypothesis that specific psychoactive pharmaceuticals, at environmental concentrations, trigger perturbations in gene expression patterns. We then compare these expression patterns to human gene expression profiles to predict possible consequences for human health. Dr. Thomas is spearheading the project, in collaboration with Dr. Rebecca Klaper (at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, School of Freshwater Sciences).
- The biological and human health significance of industrial nanomaterials. In collaboration with Dr. Josh Pak's lab (ISU Chemistry), we are using zebrafish and cell culture models to examine the potential human health implications of complex nanomaterials that end up in aquatic systems. Dr. Pak is a produces nanomaterials using various synthetic approaches, and we explore toxicity of materials synthesized with different properties.
- The role of alternative splicing and gene duplication in the evolution of genome complexity: The Thomas lab has a long-term effort to understand the evolution of genome complexity, including the evolution of alternative splicing.
- Development of bioinformatics tools and approaches: Luobin Yang is developing novel bioinformatics tools and optimizing existing tools through parallelization and algorithm refinement. More information on Luobin's page.
Science Education Projects
- The zebrafish lab is an exceptional facility for introducing undergraduate researchers to hypothesis-driven biomedical research. We open our doors to all interested and qualified undergrad researchers — please contact Dr. Thomas if you are interested in joining us.
- The ISU Bioinformatics Workshops: The Thomas EGG lab hosts an annual research symposium and training workshops for regional bioinformatics scientists. Each year, 40-50 researchers meet in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho for the 4 day event.
- Portal-21: The Thomas EGG lab and colleagues are developing a diverse set of inquiry-based exercises that will integrate cutting-edge Internet-based biomedical research data and computational technology into the core introductory biology curriculum in every public college and university in Idaho.