Zebrafish -- Ordinary Aquarium Pet, Extraordinary Benefit to Scientists

December 3, 2014 BIT Magazine's resident hackerspace is using zebrafish as one of several species in our aquaponic system. The fish were selected because not only are they hardy and easy to find at pet shops, but because we like biology and genetics so much, we thought it would be interesting to have one of the key model organisms used in modern biological research in our workspace.

To get an idea of just how these fish are used in research take a look at The Node's article titled A Day in the Life of… a Zebrafish lab. In it is described the daily routine and research revolving around zebrafish. They are kept in a large facility with many tanks where their unique characteristics aid scientists in understanding developmental biology.

The Boston Children's Hospital magazine Vector also has an article (and a video) on the use of zebrafish, where in this case they are used to study cancer and potential cures.

The zebrafish facility there consists of  some 10,000 tanks with tens of thousands of fish. There use in cancer research have helped scientists accelerate their understanding of tumor development and ways treatments can be used to stop it. Successes and discoveries made with zebrafish can then quickly be translated into other model organisms like mice and rats, or into human cell cultures.

Because zebrafish reproduce and develop so quickly, it doesn't take as long to get results with them as it might with mice, rats or human cell lines which is one of the many reasons why they are so useful to researchers.

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