Indian Journal of Health Sciences and Biomedical Research KLEU

: 2021  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1--2

Zebrafish: An in vivo model for cancer research

Shridhar C Ghagane1, Rajendra B Nerli2,  
1 Division of Urologic.Oncology, Urinary Biomarkers Research Centre, Department of Urology, KLES Dr. Prabhakar Kore Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Belagavi, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Urology, JN Medical College, KLE Academy of Higher Education and Research, JNMC Campus, Belagavi, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Shridhar C Ghagane
Division of Urologic.Oncology, Urinary Biomarkers Research Centre, Department of Urology, KLES Dr. Prabhakar Kore Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Belagavi - 590 010, Karnataka

How to cite this article:
Ghagane SC, Nerli RB. Zebrafish: An in vivo model for cancer research.Indian J Health Sci Biomed Res 2021;14:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Ghagane SC, Nerli RB. Zebrafish: An in vivo model for cancer research. Indian J Health Sci Biomed Res [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Jun 17 ];14:1-2
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Full Text

The zebrafish (Danio rerio) arose as a model for scientific translation research in the late 1930s, with several studies dedicated to the investigation of developmental processes in embryos.[1] The usage of zebrafish in research has then extended into a broad range of disciplines. Zebrafish shares a high level of physiologic and genetic similarity with humans, which includes the brain, digestive tract, musculature, vasculature, and immune system. Approximately 70% of all human disease genes have functional homologs with the species.[2] Zebrafish represents a vertebrate model organism that has been widely employed over the last decade in the study of developmental processes, wound healing, microbe–host interactions, and drug screening. The high genetic homology to humans and transparent embryos has allowed strong disease evaluation.[3] Due to these advantages, the use of zebrafish as a model for studying tumor development in vivo in laboratory has increased.

Zebrafishes are prolific reproducers with the potential to produce over 100 embryos per clutch. Their extrauterine development is rapid; the major organs of the zebrafish are fully developed by 24 h postfertilization, and they are ready for use in larvae experiments by 3 days postfertilization (DPF).[2] Zebrafish larvae are transparent during the early stages of life (through to 7 DPF), and this phase can be extended to 9–14 DPF by the addition of melanin synthesis inhibitor. Due to smaller in size, zebrafish requires inexpensive food; hence, it is easy to maintain thousands of larvae in a laboratory at a reasonable cost.[4] In the transparent embryo and larvae, clear time-lapse noninvasive imaging and protein/cell marker tracking significantly aid the observation of biological and disease processes. Several types of gastrointestinal disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and alcoholic liver disease, can be modeled in zebrafish.[5] The use of zebrafish has also expanded in the analysis of complex brain disorders and muscle disease, including depression, autism, psychoses, and muscular dystrophies. In addition, the ability to regenerate both fins and cardiac tissue makes zebrafish, particularly suitable for studying the wound healing response to various injuries.[2],[3]

In recent years, the zebrafish has come into its own as a relevant comparative model for a diverse spectrum of human diseases. The advantages of zebrafish have proved to be superior for use in cancer research over the last decade.[5] There are several long-standing methods for establishing a cancer model in zebrafish, including carcinogenic treatment, transgenic regulation, and the transplantation of mammalian tumor cells. By inducing different gene mutations or activating signaling pathways through the use of chemicals, tumors can be induced in a wide variety of organs in zebrafish, such as the liver, pancreas, intestinal canal, skin, muscle, vasculature, and testis.

The xenotransplantation of mammalian tumor cells into zebrafish provides a novel way of studying the interactions between the transplanted tumor cells and the host's vasculature. Zebrafish has also been exploited for the investigation of tumor angiogenesis, which represents a critical step in tumor progression and is a target for antitumor therapies.[5],[6] However, only a very small number of cancer cells are required in zebrafish for this purpose because of their small size. In addition, the high fertility and low maintenance costs of zebrafish make them suitable for the large-scale screen of antineoplastic drug efficacy and toxicity.[7] There are currently numerous undefined or underexplored areas for cancer research in zebrafish models. Models for cancers of the brain, bone, and ovary remain to be developed; many other types of cancer models, including nonmelanoma cutaneous tumors, certain mesenchymal tumors, and endocrine tumors, are thus far quite limited.[5],[6],[7] Although the absence of some tissue types in fish species, such as breast and prostate, limits the usefulness of zebrafish for investigating cancers of these organs, the zebrafish model has become a powerful tool in comparative biomedical research. The successful development of numerous zebrafish models for human cancer demonstrates that mechanisms for neoplastic transformation and tumor progression are conserved across relatively wide evolutionary distances.[4],[5],[6] Although it is significant that many features of cancer development in zebrafish faithfully recapitulate important aspects of their human counterparts, the usefulness of zebrafish as a cancer model extends far beyond mere phenotypic or genotypic replication of disease. Multiple studies have shown that judicious and creative use of zebrafish cancer models can lead to important insights into disease pathogenesis and therapy.[7] A key strength of the zebrafish model in cancer research is the ability to seamlessly transition between embryonic and adult animal studies, providing coordinated exploration of critical developmental, transformative, and pathological events in vivo. These attributes ensure that zebrafish models for human cancer are here to stay. Zebrafish is increasingly becoming a superior vertebrate model for cancer research and can be expected to provide further contributions to our deeper understanding of the mechanisms of genetic function, angiogenesis, metastasis, and antineoplastic drug screening soon.


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