Int. J. Dev. Biol. 61: 149 - 157 (2017)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.160346gl
© UPV/EHU Press

The not-so-long history of zebrafish research in Israel

Janna Blechman1, Gil Levkowitz*,1 and Yoav Gothilf*,2

1Department of Molecular Cell Biology, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel and 2Department of Neurobiology, The George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences and Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel-Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel

ABSTRACT The zebrafish has become a model of choice in fundamental and applied life sciences and is widely used in various fields of biomedical research as a human disease model for cancer, metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases, and regenerative medicine. The transparency of the zebrafish embryo allows real-time visualization of the development and morphogenesis of practically all of its tissues and organs. Zebrafish are amenable to genetic manipulation, for which innovative genetic and molecular techniques are constantly being introduced. These include the study of gene function and regulation using gene knockdown, knockout and knock-in, as well as transgenesis and tissue-specific genetic perturbations. Complementing this genetic toolbox, the zebrafish exhibits measurable behavioral and hormonal responses already at the larval stages, providing a viable vertebrate animal model for high-throughput drug screening and chemical genetics. With the available tools of the genomic era and the abundance of disease-associated human genes yet to be explored, the zebrafish model is becoming the preferred choice in many studies. Its advantages and potential are being increasingly recognized within the Israeli scientific community, and its use as a model system for basic and applied science has expanded in Israel in recent years. Since the first zebrafish-focused laboratory was introduced at Tel Aviv University 16 years ago, seven more zebrafish-centric research groups have been established, along with more than two dozen academic research groups and three bio-medical companies that are now utilizing this model.

Keywords:

model organism, genetics, drug discovery, biomedical, human disease model, hypothalamus, vascular biology, circadian clocks, sleep, stress, social affiliation, aquaculture

*Corresponding author e-mail: gil.levkowitz@weizmann.ac.il; yoavg@tauex.tau.ac.il