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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2012 Jul 13;423(4):785-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2012.06.040. Epub 2012 Jun 16.

Quantification of birefringence readily measures the level of muscle damage in zebrafish.

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Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute, EMBL Australia, Monash University, Clayton, Australia.


Muscular dystrophies are a group of genetic disorders that progressively weaken and degenerate muscle. Many zebrafish models for human muscular dystrophies have been generated and analysed, including dystrophin-deficient zebrafish mutants dmd that model Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Under polarised light the zebrafish muscle can be detected as a bright area in an otherwise dark background. This light effect, called birefringence, results from the diffraction of polarised light through the pseudo-crystalline array of the muscle sarcomeres. Muscle damage, as seen in zebrafish models for muscular dystrophies, can readily be detected by a reduction in the birefringence. Therefore, birefringence is a very sensitive indicator of overall muscle integrity within larval zebrafish. Unbiased documentation of the birefringence followed by densitometric measurement enables the quantification of the birefringence of zebrafish larvae. Thereby, the overall level of muscle integrity can be detected, allowing the identification and categorisation of zebrafish muscle mutants. In addition, we propose that the establish protocol can be used to analyse treatments aimed at ameliorating dystrophic zebrafish models.

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