Catching new targets in metabolic disease with a zebrafish

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HIGHLIGHTSConserved function of zebrafish pancreas and liver enable whole-organism drug-discovery.The remarkable regenerative capacity of zebrafish unlocks signals for beta-cell regeneration.Chemical screens identify drug-targets in glucose metabolism and organ regeneration.Zebrafish genetics enable validation of genes associated with human metabolic dysfunction.Traditionally, the development of novel therapeutics for metabolic diseases has relied mainly on high-throughput screening using biochemical or cell-based assays. While this approach represents a driving force in drug discovery, there is also a need to perform large-scale screens without disrupting inter-organ communication and tissue architecture, essential components for understanding the complexity of metabolic regulation and the identification of small molecules with appropriate biological activities in vivo. Hence, the zebrafish Danio rerio is gaining popularity in metabolic research and drug discovery, as this animal model allows screening of small molecules in the context of the whole-organism. Moreover, the zebrafish exhibits conserved function of the pancreas, liver and adipose tissue, which can be leveraged to identify novel targets in metabolic regulation, as well as to study the role of conserved genes associated with the risk of metabolic diseases in humans. Here we highlight recent advances in the identification of targets in metabolic regulation using the zebrafish as a model.

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