Freshwater Fish, Hydrophilic Hearts

The significance of Zebrafish in research

tmp_dd354153f714ce51096c487d5074951d_KTA0Jy_html_7757336bToday our topic of interest is the zebrafish (Danio rerio). This is an organism that holds a special place in my heart. As an aspiring young scientist I was drawn to the marine sciences. I was curious but I was clueless as how to get there. So, I went on to my undergraduate studies pursuing a degree in Bioscience (this was my safe choice). If there’s something I learned its that marine organisms are everywhere in science and math. For example: fish make great examples in anatomy and physiology, plankton are important subjects in microbiology, fisheries make for an awesome example in economics or most math classes. My favorite example? The zebrafish.

The zebrafish is a freshwater fish that belongs to the minnow family. What’s so crazy about this small thing? It’s a model organism! A model organism is a species that is used to better understand biological processes. Model organisms are easy to maintain, tend to breed in large numbers, and have short generation times. Basically, they make genetic research a little easier. The zebrafish was first used as a model organism in the 1960s.

Zebrafish Development | Amacher, S. L. (2001)

What so great about them?

  1. Cheaper than mice
  2. Embryos develop in a day
    • The embryos are also clear & they develop externally which makes it easier to analyze them
  3. The complete genome of the zebrafish was published in 2013.
    • Its genome is 1,505,581,940 base pairs in length → contains 26,247 protein-coding genes
    • 70% similar genes to humans

What important research topics have zebrafish have contributed to?

  • Adult cardiac disease
  • Tuberculosis research
  • Cancer research
  • Toxicology research
  • Organ Development ex: kidney
  • Forward genetics → a phenotype is observed, the genes responsible for that phenotype are identified
  • Reverse genetics → a gene with an unknown function is identified, gene expression is knocked down, the purpose of the gene is identified

Watch the following videos to learn more:

Zebrafish Research | Behind the Scenes of the Johns Hopkins Zebrafish Facility

Fighting Cancer with Zebrafish | Dalhousie University


2 thoughts on “The significance of Zebrafish in research”

  1. Zebrafish are great model organisms for studying the CNS, as well! We use them in my lab (a chemical biology-neuroscience lab) to visualize fluorescent small molecule localization and circuit connections within the brain. This is super simple in embryonic zebrafish because they are transparent, making it easy to perform live imaging.
    As a side note… I was always so fascinated in undergrad by all of the colorful transgenic zebrafish in genetics lab 🙂 They are such cute little creatures.


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