Animal model to test beneficial effects and toxicity on a variety of compounds

Zebrafish is a small freshwater fish that shares many genetic characteristics with vertebrates and for this reason it is widely used as a model for human diseases (such as cancer, cardiovascular, metabolic and neurological dysfunctions), development of new drugs and as a model for eco-toxicology.

AZTI pioneered in Europe the use of zebrafish as a model to study the effects of food ingredients and food contaminants and applied this knowledge to human as well as animal nutrition and health.


  • Alternative to the use of laboratory animals (EU Directive 2010/63/EU)
  • Natural response of living organisms to functional feed ingredients
  • Low cost
  • Rapid response
  • The results obtained are realistic and reliable


Efficacy testsof natural extract and functional molecules in vivo

Antioxidant capacity

  • Visual evaluation of oxidative stress
  • Quantification of oxidative stress
  • Evaluation of lipid peroxidation
  • Evaluation of damage at protein level
  • Evaluation of cellular death
  • Evaluation of gene expression (antioxidant genes)

Anti-inflammatory capacity

  • Evaluation of inflammation reduction under wound induced
  • Evaluation of inflammation reduction under a chemical stress


  • Evaluation of the expression level of a panel of immune genes belong to:
  • Proinflammatory cascade (cytokines etc…)
  • Cellular receptors (TLRs)
  • Anti-microbial peptides (defensins)

Lipid metabolism

  • Evaluation of the fat reserve reduction
  • Lipid metabolism key genes expression
  • Lipid profile analysis (SFA, MUFA, PUFA)

Antimicrobial activity

  • Evaluation of cumulative mortality under infection (bacterial challenge test)

Interaction with microbiota

  • Study of beneficial effects of probiotics and prebiotics
  • Evaluation of microbial community under a functional diet (Metabarcoding)
  • Study of the effect of microbiota on obesity

Toxicity tests of individual and mixed food and environmental contaminants (nanoparticles, microplastics, metals, PAHs, pesticides…).

  • OECD 236 Fish embryo acute toxicity test
  • OECD 305 Bioaccumulation in Fish: aqueous and dietary exposure


  • Barranco et al. (2016) Detection of exposure effects of mixtures of heavy polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in zebrafish embryos. J App Toxicol (In Press) doi: 10.1002/jat.3353
  • Molina-Fernandez, N., et al. (2016) Method for quantifying ionic pharmaceuticals in aqueous samples, lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus) roe, zebrafish (Danio rerio) eleutheroembryos and evaluation of their bioconcentration in zebrafish eleutheroembryos. Env. Sci Poll. Res. (In Press) doi:10.​1007/​s11356-016-6671-8
  • Caro, M., et al. (2016) Zebrafish dives into food research. Food & Function 15: 2615-23.
  • Zarco-Fernández, S., et al. (2016) Bioconcentration of ionic cadmium and cadmium selenide quantum dots in zebrafish larvae.  Chemosphere148: 328-335.
  • Valcarce, et al. (2015) Effect of diet supplementation with a commercial probiotic containing Pediococcus acidilactici (Lindner, 1887) on the expression of five quality markers in zebrafish (Danio rerio (Hamilton, 1822)) testis.  J. Appl. Icthiol. 31: 18-21
  • Russo, et al. (2015) Zebrafish gut colonization by mCherry-labelled lactic acid bacteria. Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 99: 3479-3490.
  • Oyarbide et al. (2015) Use of gnotobiotic zebrafish to study Vibrio anguillarum pathogenicity. Zebrafish. 12: 71-80.
  • López-Serrano Oliver et al.(2015). Bioconcentration of ionic titanium and titanium dioxide nanoparticles in zebrafish eleutheroembryos. Nanotoxicol. 4: 1-8.
  • Pardal et al. (2014) Resveratrol and piceid metabolites and their fat-reduction effects in zebrafish larvae. Zebrafish, 11: 32–40.
  • Olasagasti et al. (2014) Toxic effects of colloidal nanosilver on zebrafish embryos. J. Appl. Toxicol. 34: 562-575
  • Oyarbide et al. (2012) Zebrafish (Danio rerio) larvae as a system to test the efficacy of polysaccharides as immunostimulants. Zebrafish 9: 74-84