The zebrafish began to be used as a biological model in the 70s. At first it was used mainly as a tool to study the development of organs in vertebrates, but the high degree of genetic and physiological similarity with humans has been turning over the years into a great biomedical tool. Its popularity among researchers intensified dramatically when it was discovered, a decade ago, that it could be used on a large scale to identify new genes through mutational screening.

The qualities that have turned this fish into one of the vertebrate biological models par excellence, only surpassed by the mouse, are:

  • It has great genetic similarity with the human that why zebrafish model is great option for scientist to do research. We share about 80% of the genome and eight out of ten of our diseases can be reproduced in it. All this allows the results obtained with the drugs tested in these animals to be potentially extrapolated to humans.
  • This genetic similarity allows us to use it as an animal model to find out the functions of some genes and reproduce in them biomedical models of human hereditary diseases.
  • Recently the complete genome of the zebrafish has been sequenced, observing that it has the highest number of genes coding for vertebrates, 26,479 genes, which is an advantage for its use in the laboratory.
  • It has the capacity to regenerate the organs that are partially amputated or damaged, thus becoming the ideal biological model to investigate regenerative processes.
  • Their embryos are transparent, which allows observing both the effects of drugs on their internal organs, as well as the mutations caused in them when performing mutational screens (something very used are fluorescent proteins, such as green fluorescent protein, which emits a beam of light that allows perceiving with great detail the cells that carry it).
  • They have a great reproductive capacity. The female lays up to 200 eggs. They reproduce throughout the year and develop very fast (their organs are formed in only 24 hours). This, apart from ensuring a constant supply of embryos at a relatively low cost, compared to other vertebrates, allows different experiments to be carried out in the same generation of animals, investigating the evolution of pathologies and identifying their causes.
  • The fecundation of the eggs and the totality of the development take place outside the female, which facilitates the direct study of the early stages of ontogeny. This in the rodents is impossible, since their development takes place inside the uterus (apart from that they provide a limited number of embryos).
  • The cost of maintaining the zebrafish is between 100 and 1000 times less than that of keeping laboratory mice. Its small size facilitates its storage, as they fit up to a hundred fish in containers of one litter of water, with a simple maintenance. In addition, it allows a great saving in chemical compounds, because as several larvae can live in a volume of liquid the size of a drop of water, only minimal amounts of compounds are needed per test.
Author's Bio: 

Marina Pal is a renowned author and social media enthusiast.