Veldman, M.B., and Lin, S. (2008) Zebrafish as a developmental model organism for pediatric research. Pediatric Research. 64(5):470-476.
Zebrafish has many advantages as a model of human pediatric research. Given the physical and ethical problems with performing experiments on human patients, biomedical research has focused on using model organisms to study biological processes conserved between humans and lower vertebrates. The most common model organisms are small mammals, usually rats and mice. Although these models have significant advantages, they are also expensive to maintain, difficult to manipulate embryonically, and limited for large-scale genetic studies. The zebrafish model nicely complements these deficiencies in mammalian experimental models. The low cost, small size, and external development of zebrafish make it an excellent model for vertebrate development biology. Techniques for large-scale genome mutagenesis and gene mapping, transgenesis, protein overexpression or knockdown, cell transplantation and chimeric embryo analysis, and chemical screens have immeasurably increased the power of this model organism. It is now possible to rapidly determine the developmental function of a gene of interest in vivo, and then identify genetic and chemical modifiers of the processes involved. Discoveries made in zebrafish can be further validated in mammals. With novel technologies being regularly developed, the zebrafish is poised to significantly improve our understanding of vertebrate development under normal and pathological conditions.