Why We Use Zebrafish

In my lab there is a hanging fish that glows. Even though my professor works on some things that sound like they are out of a science fiction novel, this is not a live fish luckily. It’s a craft fish with led lights strewn through it to celebrate the lab mascot as well as our livelihood in some respects: the zebrafish.


Why are zebrafish relevant to the biophysics research world? It is not because they are half zebra and half fish, but that would be really cool. One reason why they are so great for research labs is because you can easily breed transparent zebrafish. Making it easier to notice physiological changes in your experiment fish, this explains why you can see the guts of the hundreds of fish kept across the hall from where I am typing this. It also points towards a more important speciality of zebrafish.


The embryo laid by Zebrafish are extremely amenable to experimental changes, which is accomplished by literally injecting them with DNA or RNA. Not only that, but Zebrafish breed rapidly and bountifully compared to other common lab specimen like mice. So, just as my research advisor does, you can easily create an entire population of fish that meet specific requirements for experimentation. With the ability to manipulate Zebrafish DNA like this we can intentionally give a population a certain mutation which is known to cause diseases in humans.


Overall, I think Zebrafish are underrated, as evidenced by the loving glance I share with the fish in the attached picture.

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