The zebrafish as a model to study intestinal inflammation

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Starting out as a model for developmental biology, during the last decade, zebrafish have also gained the attention of the immunologists and oncologists. Due to its small size, high fecundity and full annotation of its genome, the zebrafish is an attractive model system. The fact that fish are transparent early in life combined with the growing list of immune cell reporter fish, enables in vivo tracking of immune responses in a complete organism. Since zebrafish develop ex utero from a fertilized egg, immune development can be monitored from the start of life. Given that several gut functions and immune genes are conserved between zebrafish and mammals, the zebrafish is an interesting model organism to investigate fundamental processes underlying intestinal inflammation and injury. This review will first provide some background on zebrafish intestinal development, bacterial colonization and immunity, showing the similarities and differences compared to mammals. This will be followed by an overview of the existing models for intestinal disease, and concluded by future perspectives in light of the newest technologies and insights.

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