The Zebrafish as Model Organism
The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is an increasingly popular model organism which offers several advantages over other model organisms for disease modeling: low cost, short reproductive cycle, external fertilization and development, production of large numbers of synchronous and rapidly developing embryos per mating and the optical transparency of zebrafish embryos make it an excellent tool for high-throughput disease modeling. The availability of a wide range of molecular techniques such as large-scale genome mutagenesis, transgenesis and overexpression/knockdown approaches, have also increased the power of zebrafish as a model organism. Finally, due the high genomic and molecular similarities between zebrafish and other vertebrates, many of the important discoveries in zebrafish development are applicable to humans.
Zebrafish Facility Ghent (ZFG)
The zebrafish facility, in its present form, has a capacity of about 17000 adult fish, which are housed in 6 “semi-closed” recirculating systems (ZebTEC and WTU systems, Tecniplast) that provide automatic water circulation, automatic monitoring and displaying of the most important water quality parameters such as temperature, pH and conductivity. Furthermore, an optimal water quality is provided due to the presence of mechanical, chemical and biological filters. In general, these housing systems provide optimal and standardized environmental conditions for the fish. Besides wild type zebrafish, also several transgenic reporter lines and models for different human disorders are maintained in these systems. Important zebrafish lines are archived by sperm cryopreservation in order to prevent unexpected loss. Embryos and early larvae are kept in an incubator under constant temperature and automatic light/dark cycles. We use an easy-accessible software package (Danio Data App, Fulcrum), available on touchpads, to manage the zebrafish stocks, the breeding programs and daily husbandry tasks. A fully trained animal caretaker is involved in the breeding and care of the fish.