Happy wound healing: investigating the effects of Prozac on fish skin wound healing

Happy wound healing!                                                                                     

Pollution of freshwaters with pharmaceuticals and personal care products poses a real threat to environmental health, an impact likely to increase due to climate change, population growth and urbanisation. One example is antidepressants, of which fluoxetine (FLX, commercial brand name: Prozac) is widely prescribed. After ingestion, FLX is partly metabolised into other active compounds (e.g. nor-fluoxetine), and FLX and its metabolites are then excreted through urine. Wastewater treatment plants are not efficient at removing FLX and its metabolites and, as a result, freshwater FLX total concentrations are in the 10s-1000s of ng/l, making FLX a priority contaminant in ecotoxicology.

In this application, we propose to investigate the effects of environmentally relevant FLX concentrations on fish skin wound healing.

Exposure to environmentally relevant FLX concentrations has effects on the behaviour of many species, including fish, which can alter normal physiological function and have a negative impact on growth, reproduction, and population success. However, little is known about the effects on fish wound healing. Our hypothesis is that FLX accelerates fish skin wound healing through the serotonin pathway, leading to cell proliferation.

If successful, this project will push the frontiers of environmental research towards understanding the full effects of freshwater pollution on fish and, specifically, pave the way to research into the effect of environmentally-relevant pharmaceuticals on the skin of aquatic species. This is essential to understanding the signatures of exposure to FLX in the environment, such as enhanced wound healing, which could have ecosystem-wide impacts, and area of emerging interest.