Understanding Zebra Fish for Parkinson's Research

5 January 2023

Angel Fish Parkinsons

Several years ago it was proposed that zebrafish could be used as part of innovative research in the field of Parkinson’s. At that time, we learnt that zebrafish had been commonly used as a model organism in developmental biology since the 1950’s, but more recently they emerged as a model for human diseases - The zebrafish genome is 70% similar to humans.

Zebrafish (Dano rerio) are cheap and easy to sustain, evolve rapidly, breed transparent embryos in large amounts and are easily manipulated by different models, especially genetic ones. An article published in early 2021 outlined the promise of using zebrafish in Parkinson’s models due to its well-characterised nervous system.

Zebrafish possess cognitive processes including learning, memory, fear, anxiety, perception, social skills and even sleep pattern.

Did you know that zebrafish that exhibit high anxiety levels, spend more time at the edge of a tank than at the centre, and at the bottom of the tank rather than at the top? They are able to acquire avoidance learning and process it into long-term memory.

Zebrafish are vertebrates; hence they are closer to humans than some other mammalian models making them ideal for research. A 2020 study described how zebrafish who had been exposed (on purpose) to neurotoxins demonstrated decreased swimming speed and abnormal swimming behaviour which generally translated to the bradykinetic-like symptoms seen in people with Parkinson’s.

In an Italian study released as we go to print, it was shown that the brain tissue of zebrafish exposed to aluminum had marked cellular disorganisation and swelling. We already knew that aluminum exposure could promote oxidative stress which has long been associated with the development of Parkinson’s.

This study suggests that aluminum exposure can turn on 10 Parkinson’s related genes although there was some variability in timing and expression between the individual genes.

This is very interesting and encouraging, however, we must be mindful that much more work will need to be done in the future to investigate further.

Article thanks to Parkinson's WA.

References: The promise of the Zebrafish Model for Parkinson’s Disease: Today’s Science and Tomorrow’s Treatment. Razali et al. Frontiers in Genetics April 2021 Vol. 12 pp1-17. https://parkinsonsnewstoday.co...