Zebrafish as a Vertebrate Model System to Evaluate Effects of Environmental Toxicants on Cardiac Development and Function

Sarmah, Swapnalee; Marrs, James A.
December 2016
International Journal of Molecular Sciences;Dec2016, Vol. 17 Issue 12, p2123
Academic Journal
Environmental pollution is a serious problem of the modern world that possesses a major threat to public health. Exposure to environmental pollutants during embryonic development is particularly risky. Although many pollutants have been verified as potential toxicants, there are new chemicals in the environment that need assessment. Heart development is an extremely sensitive process, which can be affected by environmentally toxic molecule exposure during embryonic development. Congenital heart defects are the most common life-threatening global health problems, and the etiology is mostly unknown. The zebrafish has emerged as an invaluable model to examine substance toxicity on vertebrate development, particularly on cardiac development. The zebrafish offers numerous advantages for toxicology research not found in other model systems. Many laboratories have used the zebrafish to study the effects of widespread chemicals in the environment on heart development, including pesticides, nanoparticles, and various organic pollutants. Here, we review the uses of the zebrafish in examining effects of exposure to external molecules during embryonic development in causing cardiac defects, including chemicals ubiquitous in the environment and illicit drugs. Known or potential mechanisms of toxicity and how zebrafish research can be used to provide mechanistic understanding of cardiac defects are discussed.


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