The zebrafish is an attractive model organism. With a well-mapped genome, a similar backbone to ours, transparent eggs and offspring that grow quickly to maturity, this species lends itself to the effective study of development, with a view to understanding birth defects and diseases such as cancer. Zebrafish genes can easily be manipulated, which helps unravel how they work in normal development and what can happen when they go awry. For example, here a normal embryo (bottom) is compared to one that received an overdose of a gene called sonic hedgehog (also vital for our normal development). The result is poor eye development (top). Scientists are currently unravelling how zebrafish repair damage to their retina and heart muscle tissue. Understanding these biological processes will pave the way for new treatments for impaired vision and heart disease.
Written by Jenny Gimpel
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.