Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Zebrafish as alternative animal for research: Danio rerio to provide insight into human aggressive behaviour

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 29: The next major breakthrough in medical sciences including development of new drugs for Parkinson's, schizophrenia, heart failure and diabetes-related blindness could well come from a little fish that adorns aquariums at home.
With Zebrafish or Danio rerio fast emerging as an alternative animal for research in  developmental biology,
oncology, toxicology, genetics, neurology and regenerative medicine, scientists in  Hyderabad are now increasingly looking at this humble fish as a model for human diseases including congenital heart  problems. It will also help in development of powerful medicines for age-related health issues.
The city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, which has been doing research  on zebrafish, is setting up an exclusive laboratory for research on this alternative animal model. The structure of  brain in zebrafish is similar to the brain in human beings and this has prompted the CCMB to deal exclusively with this  fish to investigate developmental biology in vertebrates.
"The zebrafish is an important model for diseases in man. The laboratory for research on  zebrafish is almost ready and it will be opened soon," said Dr Ch Mohan Rao, director of CCMB.
Scientists in the city and elsewhere are increasingly using zebrafish after the Animal Welfare Board of India has tightened the norms of use of mouse, rat, monkey, cat, rabbit and other vertebrate animals in research. There are no such restrictions on zebrafish and its life cycle is also short. It is also the best animal model for understanding the mechanism of regeneration and degeneration as also the complex neuroscience, which plays an important role in human health and medicine.
Zebrafish contains certain proteins which also play important role in neurological and genetic problems in human beings. It's particularly important to understand Huntington's disease.
Researchers also hope to unravel the mystery behind the aggressive behaviour in animals and human beings through zebrafish, as the genetic tools in this fish, serve as a neurogenetic model for research on neural circuits responsible for aggressive behaviour. If this becomes successful, a mechanism can be evolved to tame aggression in man and animals.

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