So what makes Zebrafish such a rich species for molecular and genetic studies?
This striped fish is home to the seas of India, it is exhibited in aquariums all over the world. Coming to the world of biology, zebrafish has important features which enable scientists to use it for research in disease modelling. A small teleost fish, it has high degree of conservation between zebrafish and human genomes and molecular signaling networks, small size, external fertilization, rapid development, optical transparency at early developmental stages, high reproduction rate, and low maintenance cost. With 70% gene similarity and 80% disease gene orthologs with that of humans, it is an excellent model organism.
Zebrafish as a model to validate human disease
Zebrafish models of human diseases with a known genetic basis have been developed in several therapeutic areas.Disease models are created by identifying stable mutations with phenotypes of interest from collections of chemically mutagenized fish. Blood diseases were one of the first areas in which zebrafish made advances into human disease modeling. Specific inactivation of genes known to be involved in human disorders can also be accomplished, by injecting embryos with antisense morpholinos (inactivates gene function by either blocking translation or preventing correct splicing of pre-mRNAs.)
This was made possible due to the zebrafish genome being fully sequenced to a very high quality which helps to create mutations in more than 14,000 genes. This has enabled zebrafish to accustom to modern research methods and techniques.