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Reprod Toxicol. 2009 Sep;28(2):245-53. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2009.04.013. Epub 2009 May 4.

Zebrafish embryos as models for embryotoxic and teratological effects of chemicals.

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  • 1Institute of Toxicology and Genetics, Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe in the Helmholtz Association, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, PO Box 3640, Karlsruhe 76021, Germany.


The experimental virtues of the zebrafish embryo such as small size, development outside of the mother, cheap maintenance of the adult made the zebrafish an excellent model for phenotypic genetic and more recently also chemical screens. The availability of a genome sequence and several thousand mutants and transgenic lines together with gene arrays and a broad spectrum of techniques to manipulate gene functions add further to the experimental strength of this model. Pioneering studies suggest that chemicals can have in many cases very similar toxicological and teratological effects in zebrafish embryos and humans. In certain areas such as cardiotoxicity, the zebrafish appears to outplay the traditional rodent models of toxicity testing. Several pilot projects used zebrafish embryos to identify new chemical entities with specific biological functions. In combination with the establishment of transgenic sensor lines and the further development of existing and new automated imaging systems, the zebrafish embryos could therefore be used as cost-effective and ethically acceptable animal models for drug screening as well as toxicity testing.

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