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THE PH.D.-INTERVIEW

New research gives hope to exterminate the sea lice

The sea lice cause considerable problems for the fish farming industry. Liv Sandlund’s research can make the sea lice sterile and increase the mortality rate.

IMPORTANT RESEARCH: Liv Sandlund has found that by turning off a specific receptor in the sea lice can lead to solutions for the problems the aquaculture industry faces with this small crustacean.
IMPORTANT RESEARCH: Liv Sandlund has found that by turning off a specific receptor in the sea lice can lead to solutions for the problems the aquaculture industry faces with this small crustacean.
Photo:
Solfrid Langeland, University of Bergen

Have you always planned to do a PhD?

“I am curious by nature and have always wanted to find solutions to problems. I strongly wanted to be a researcher, but I did not take the ordinary road to do so. After studying chemistry at the University of Bergen I took some years off to work making masks for the film industry. I returned to my studies and molecular biology and was then employed as a senior research fellow at the Sea Lice Centre at the University of Bergen (SLRC).

What did you want to achieve with your PhD?

“I wanted my research to be practically applicable. The aim with this PhD has been to increase the knowledge about how the hormone system in the sea louse effect the biological possesses in the sea lice.”

What are sea lice?

“The sea louse is a small crustacean that feeds on the skin of the salmon. To avoid that this leads to the death of the salmon it is important to keep the sexually mature female lice in low numbers.”

What about the sea louse biology has been studied?

“In all crustaceans the ability to reproduce is controlled by ecdysteroid hormones which lead to a ecdysteroid receptor (EcR) in the nucleus. They work together to unite with the DNA where they decide which genes to express and not. I have studied what happens in the sea louse when you turn off the formation of EcR.”

Your thesis identifies enzymes that are important to produce ecdysteroid hormones. Can you tell us more about this?

“The studies show that reduced EcR-function leads to serious problems in the development of organs and can lead to an increase in mortality. Woman sea lice with reduced EcR-function stopped producing eggs. This gives us hope to find a method to exterminate the sea lice.”

What can we as a society do with these results?

“The aim is to create medicine that targets sea lice. With this knowledge we can do more research on finding a molecule that specifically exterminates sea lice without killing any other organisms.”

What makes your research important?

““Sea lice are one of the most important causes of mortality in farmed salmonids. My research is important because it brings us a step towards exterminating the sea lice. With the knowledge from this PhD it is possible to make new chemotherapeutika that is specific for this sea lice receptor.”

How has the research work been?

“The work has been very exciting. Biology is so unpredictable and you always have to adjust your methods. My supervisors have been doing a great job and the professors always had their doors open for their students. Biology is a subject where you have to be present physically and this makes the social environment especially good.”

What are your plans now?

“I have started working as a postdoctoral fellow and will study the relationship between the sea lice and the host. The aim is to aggregate as much knowledge as possible about the biology of the sea lice. This way we can come closer to solve the sea lice problem.”