Another Life of Ornamental Zebrafish —Superhero of Medicine and Health Research

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Posted on: 23 November 2020 by chen shanshan

Another Life of Ornamental Zebrafish —Superhero of Medicine and Health Research

Abstract: Zebrafish, a kind of beautiful ornamental fish, can be frequently seen at the aquarium. However, it has another identity as an important model organism in life science research.

In the fields of life sciences, human medicine and health research, some works or experiments may be difficult to be implemented on humans, rare animals, or some giant animals, another animal that is easy to operate can be substituted for experimental research. In order to ensure that these animal experiments are more scientific, accurate, and reproducible, various methods can be used to put some physiological or pathological activities that need to be studied on standardized experimental animals that are relatively stable for experimental research. Thiskind of standardized experimental animals iscalledmodel organisms.

The zebrafish is such an excellent model organism. Its genetic similarity to humans is as high as 87%, so it can be used for extensive research in developmental biology and molecular developmental genetics. As a new type of spine model organism, it is also known as white mouse in water because of its outstanding contribution to medicine and health research.

·Advantages of zebrafish as a model organism

The zebrafish, belonging to the carp family, gets its name because it has dark blue and silver zebra-like stripes on its body. They are small in size and adult fishes are about 4-6 cm in length. Adults lay eggs all year round and the number of eggs can reach 300-1000. They arein vitro fertilized and developed, so they are very suitable for large-scale breeding and screening in the laboratory.

In addition, their development process is also very short. An egg starts cell division after about 45 minutes of fertilization, and has divided into thousands of cells by 3.25 hours. Then, it begins to differentiate into early cells of the heart and tail structureat 16 hours, and almost all systems have started organogenesis by 24 hours. All organs have been built and functioned on the 5th day of fertilization, and it takes only 2-3 months to grow mature into an adult fish. The embryos are transparent during the whole process of development, and thein vitro development is at high speed, which provide a great convenience for scientists to study early organ development and morphological differentiation.

“The fully sequenced zebrafish genome enabled scientists to create mutations in more than 14,000 genes to study their function. And there are already some mutants that have been produced to model human diseases,” said a scientist at Creative Diagnostics, a manufacturer providing various kinds of zebrafish antibody products.

·Application of zebrafish as a model organism

Although being such an excellent model organism, zebrafish, a freshwater fish native to India and Bangladesh, was not discovered and was widely used in laboratory research until the 1970s. The research conference held in Cold Spring Harbor in 1994 formally established the status of zebrafish as a model organism. Then, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) ranks zebrafish as the third most important spine model organism after rats and mice.Nowadays, they already have great applications in biological research, human disease model research, new drug screening, drug toxicity and safety evaluation, as well as environmental toxicology research.

For example, in terms of drug screening and disease models, because of the high similarity between zebrafish and human genomes, more than 2,000 diseases that appear in humans can be successfully simulated in zebrafish, including cancer, leukemia, atherosclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, etc., which means that when scientists want to conduct drug treatment research for these diseases, they can first be verified in zebrafish.

In addition to its application in development and disease research, some characteristics of the zebrafish itself can also bring a lot of enlightenment to the modern science. For example, it is one of the animals with strong regeneration ability in limbs. Its fins, skin, scales, lateral hair cells, and even part of the heart and brain can be regenerated when it is in the larval stage. Research on the mystery of its regeneration will help to explore more aboutthe regeneration of human organs and amputation.

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