Why do we use zebrafish for human solutions?
Even if it seems surprising, the reality is that zebrafish and human share high molecular and genetic homologies (87% genes are shared with human genome), especially for enzymes and cell surface receptors, which allows us to use it as a model of human diseases. It can reproduce eight out of ten of our diseases.
As is known, most of the research / studies carried out on animals are with rodents. Why do we look for another alternative to these? Because the advantages offered by this species against rodents have made it a very valuable tool for research.
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 25 fish in containers of 45 liter of water, with a simple maintenance. In addition, it allows a great saving in chemical compounds, since 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.
Its reproductive cycle is one of the keys that have made this species used more and more frequently in scientific research. On one hand, the laying of eggs can reach 100-200 eggs mating, which allows us a constant supply of embryos at a relatively low cost, if we compare it with rodents and high confidence in statistical analysis.
In addition, the fertilization of the eggs is carried out by external fertilization, that is outside the female, which allows easy access and manipulation of the embryos.
The transparency of the embryos allows the study of the development of the organism, since embryogenesis occurs externally. Through the microscope we can see in detail the first cell divisions and the formation of their organs, since they are fully formed very quickly. This is a great advantage because it allows us to observe both the effects of drugs on their internal organs, as well as the mutations caused in them when carrying out mutational screening.
There are some of the reason why scientists are turning towards using Zebrafish for their studies. With more passing time, it is expected to gain more importance in the medical sciences.
Advantages VS Rodents
Studies in the field of zebrafish do not prevent subsequent studies in rodents, but help a lot to define the conditions of the rodent tests which means that the number of tests, and therefore the number of rodents, is the minimum. Moreover the reduced of the number of rodents needed for the assay improves the ethical considerations of the assay as well as that implies a lower cost of the studies.
Coming next: advantages of the zebrafish in the different therapeutic areas.