Text: Bertrand Tappy
Photo: paul bull / ISTOCK

The zebrafish — danio rerio

This tiny fish is a model organism for carrying out research on genetic diseases.


Adult size: 4 to 5 cm
Feature: 70% of common genes with the human being

For this first edition of “In Vivo”’s Fauna and Flora section, which looks at species currently used in research, we have chosen to shine the spotlight on the zebrafish. One may wonder what humans could possibly have in common with this tiny little fish. But in fact, we share more than 70% of our genes with it!

Rapide Life Cycle

Its extremely rapid life cycle and ability to reproduce all year long make it very easy for researchers to observe how a genetic abnormality develops over several generations. “Unfortunately we can’t grow everything in cell cultures in a laboratory,” says Jérôme Wuarin, a research assistant at the Dean’s Office of the Faculty of Biology and Medicine (FBM). “Certain fields, such as neuroscience and genetics, can learn a lot from the zebrafish.”

In Lausanne, several researchers have expressed their interest in the tiny fish, including the team headed by Professor Francesca Amati, who studies muscle ageing processes. This has recently prompted the University of Lausanne to launch a project to develop a platform for breeding zebrafish. Such an endeavour would also have the advantage

of being much less complicated and costly than running a facility with mice. “We would be in line with the current trend of reforming, reducing and replacing experiments on animals as soon as possible,” Wuarin says.⁄