FEB 04, 2016 06:00 AM PST

Zebrafish: an upswing model in research and the need for refinement of anaesthesia

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  • Post-doctoral Researcher, i3S (Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde)
      Ana is a researcher with a degree in Biology from University of Coimbra (2005) and a PhD in Veterinarian Sciences from ICBAS, University of Porto (2012). Her research line started right after her graduation, in the Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology (IBMC), where she intended to understand if different depths of anaesthesia could induce behavioural changes in rodents. This research continued in her PhD and during one year as a post-doc in a project. The gap between the increasing use of zebrafish models and the lack of appropriate knowledge of some procedures in research, such as anaesthesia, led Ana to apply her research line to zebrafish. She was funded by FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia) as Principal Investigator of a project regarding the effects of anaesthesia in zebrafish development using behavioural tasks, and assessment of morphology, genetic expression, and cellular alterations (IBMC, UTAD, CNBC). Currently, she has got a post-doctoral fellowship to optimize zebrafish anaesthesia using a clinical and animal welfare perspective. Besides this line of research, she is also particularly interested in finding better euthanasia methods and refining other situations in laboratory animals. Since 2007 she is also a trainer in the Laboratory Animal Science course FELASA (category C) at IBMC.


         In the last decade the number of publications in zebrafish tripled, from 938 in 2005 to 2432 in 2015 (Pubmed database; keyword: “zebrafish” in Title/Abstract; 12/4/2015), being the animal model with the highest increase in publication. These numbers reflect the importance of zebrafish as a good practical and scientific model for several human diseases, drug discovery and gene function identification through behavioural phenomics and high-throughput genetic and molecular screening.

         Zebrafish is legally protected by the European Directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (2010/63/EU) when they become capable of independent feeding.
         However, the increasing use of zebrafish has not been accompanied by the evolution of anaesthetic protocols suitable for different experimental situations. Ethyl 3-aminobenzoate methanesulfate (MS222) is the standard fish anaesthetic, but concerns have been raised concerning aversion/ stress induction and cardiovascular depression in long procedures. This lecture intends to provide a review of the anaesthetics used in zebrafish in different contexts and the proposal of new anaesthetic protocols. The drugs’ availability, preparation, clinical efficacy and safety, and animal welfare issues will be discussed.

         There are legal, scientific and animal welfare reasons to study procedures’ refinement in zebrafish. This animal model needs proper research in the area of laboratory animal science for a better care and scientific quality.

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