Since the 1960s, the zebrafish has become increasingly crucial to scientific research. It has many features that make it a useful model for studying human genetics and disease.
The use of zebrafish as a model organism began in the 1960s.
A model organism is a non-human species that is studied to understand biological processes. Also, they may occupy a pivotal position in the evolutionary tree, which gives scientists insight into evolutionary development.
These organisms are tropical fresh-water fish in the minnow family, and they native to southeast Asia.
Biological Importance of Zebrafish
Since the 1960s, the zebrafish (Danio rerio) has become increasingly important to scientific research. It has many characteristics that make it a valuable model for studying human genetics and disease. They have already been used to help unlock a number of the biological processes behind muscular dystrophy, and are an important model for understanding the mechanisms of development and diseases such as cancer.
The complete genome sequence of the zebrafish was published in 2013.
While mice and rats have been common options for modeling human diseases in the past, the use of zebrafish is rapidly gaining popularity. Let me explain the reasons for this.
Benefits of the Zebrafish
First of all, they are cheaper to maintain than mice. Because cost is one of the most important point for a scientific study. Besides, this organism is small and robust. Zebrafish produce hundreds of offspring at weekly intervals providing scientists with an ample supply of embryos to study. Also, they grow at an extremely fast rate, developing as much in a day as a human embryo develops in one month.
Furthermore, their embryos are clear, which allows researchers to watch the fertilized eggs grow into fully-formed baby fish under a microscope.
Also, zebrafish have a similar genetic structure to humans. They share 70 percent of genes with us. 84 percent of genes known to be associated with human disease have a zebrafish counterpart. Last but not least, the organism genome has been fully sequenced to a very high quality. This has enabled scientists to create mutations in more than 14,000 genes to study their function.
Ugur Yilbasi is a Junior Research Fellow at European Institute of Policy Research and Human Rights. Ugur is a senior student at Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Istanbul Kültür University.