Baldessari, D., and Mione, M. (2008) How to create the vascular tree? (Latest) help from the zebrafish. Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 118(2):206-230.
The cardiovascular system provides oxygen, nutrients and hormones to organs, it directs traffic of metabolites and it maintains tissue homeostasis. It is one of the first organs assembled during vertebrate development and it is essential to life from early stages to adult. For these reasons, the process of vessel formation has being studied for more than a century, but it is only in the late eighties that there has been an explosion of research in the field with the employment of various in vitro and in vivo model systems. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) offers several advantages for in vivo studies; it played a fundamental role in new discoveries and helped to refine our knowledge of the vascular system. This review recapitulates the zebrafish data on vasculogenesis and angiogenesis, including the specification of the haemangioblasts from the mesoderm, their migration to form the vascular cord followed by axial vessels specification, the primary and secondary sprouting of intersomitic vessels, the formation of the lumen, the arterial versus venous specification and patterning. To emphasize the strengths of the zebrafish system in the vascular field, we summarize main tools, such as gene expression and mutagenesis screens, knock down technologies, transgenic lines and imaging, which played a major role in the development of the field and allowed significant discoveries, for instance the recent visualization of the lymphatic system in zebrafish. This information contributes to the prospective of drug discovery to cure human diseases linked to angiogenesis, not last tumours.