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The Animal Science Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about scientific and technological topics related to pets, livestock, and other animals. See how cutting-edge advances help - or hinder - species around the world.

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Zebrafish in Research

Posted May 24, 2013 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta
Pathfinder Tags: ANIMAL SCIENCE research zebrafish

Zebrafish have been in the news recently. These small fish are gaining popularity in research labs. Read on to find out why!

Zebrafish Facts

  • One inch long
  • Freshwater fish
  • Native to south and southeast Asia in areas like the Ganges River
  • About 70% of human genes are found in zebrafish
  • About 80% of human disease-causing genes are found in zebrafish
  • More than 26,000 protein-making genes

In the 1970s Dr. George Streisinger was one of the first to use zebrafish for the study of vertebrate development and genetics. He recognized similarities between the fish and humans - backbones, brains, spinal cords, organs, bones, and cartilage.

Scientists learned how to selectively mutate zebrafish DNA in 1988. Since that discovery, the number of papers covering zebrafish studies has increased from 26 to 2,100. The nonprofit Zebrafish International Resource Center sells 2,608 different genetically modified strains to researchers.

Comparing Zebrafish and Rodents

Which animal is better for research - zebrafish or rodent?

Zebrafish

Rodents

Cost per Day

$0.07 for a tank of fish$0.90 for a cage of five rodents

Reproduction Rate

3 days for hundreds of embryos3 weeks for 10 babies

Ease of Monitoring

Larval fish are transparent - visual monitoring of organ growthNot transparent - other means of monitoring required

Ideal For Studying

Tumor growth, new drug screeningComplex brain disorders, lungs, mammal-specific issues

Common Studies

Zebrafish are often used to study vertebrate development. Embryonic transparency makes it really easy to monitor early growth and development. Zebrafish help researchers understand the causes of birth defects in humans. In fact, with an infant's blood sample, a zebrafish can be used to monitor the same growth.

A well-known lab studying zebrafish is the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (link no longer available). More information about zebrafish research can be found at Research at UCL.

References: Nature; Neuro.UOregon.edu; NIH.gov; PopSci; Science Alert

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