Dissecting the Matter

Nathaniel Vrana starts his shift at the UA’s Aquaculture Pathology Laboratory by opening a jar of shrimp that arrived in the mail the previous day.

The physiology senior puts on blue gloves and grabs a razor. He lays out one shrimp on a piece of tinfoil, quickly cuts off its pleopod, or fin, and puts it in a tube.

Vrana works part time in the diagnostic section of the lab and tests the shrimp for white spot syndrome, a contagious viral infection that can kill shrimp, and several other viruses. Shrimp farms and other companies from around the world send in samples of potentially unhealthy products, including fish eggs, lobsters and blood worms, to the UA’s lab and pay for a diagnosis.

Every day after class, it’s Vrana’s job to remove parts of the creatures for DNA and RNA extraction and run the diagnostic tests.

“This part is interesting, with the diagnostics,” he says. “It’s all shrimp but it can be applied to other situations.”

Vrana, who is applying to medical school, spent nearly a year working in a laboratory in the Arizona Cancer Center. He then heard about an opening in the aquaculture pathology lab and has worked there for the past few months.

The lab, located in the Veterinary Science and Microbiology building, is one of the only in the world to offer these diagnostic services — so companies from countries such as Belgium, Germany and various others in South America send their samples to Tucson, Vrana says. Aquatic creatures normally come frozen or preserved in an ethanol solution, he says as he opens a freezer full of the lobsters, shrimp and squid the lab had previously diagnosed.

 Read the rest of this November 22 article in the Arizona Daily Wildcat at the link below.

Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory: http://cals.arizona.edu/vdl/

Released date: 
Dec 2 2011