Neuromuscular disorders in zebrafish: state of the art and future perspectives

Andrea Pappalardo, Letizia Pitto, Chiara Fiorillo, M Alice Donati, Claudio Bruno, Filippo M Santorelli
Neuromolecular Medicine 2013, 15 (2): 405-19
Neuromuscular disorders are a broad group of inherited conditions affecting the structure and function of the motor system with polymorphic clinical presentation and disease severity. Although individually rare, collectively neuromuscular diseases have an incidence of 1 in 3,000 and represent a significant cause of disability of the motor system. The past decade has witnessed the identification of a large number of human genes causing muscular disorders, yet the underlying pathogenetic mechanisms remain largely unclear, limiting the developing of targeted therapeutic strategies. To overcome this barrier, model systems that replicate the different steps of human disorders are increasingly being developed. Among these, the zebrafish (Danio rerio) has emerged as an excellent organism for studying genetic disorders of the central and peripheral motor systems. In this review, we will encounter most of the available zebrafish models for childhood neuromuscular disorders, providing a brief overview of results and the techniques, mainly transgenesis and chemical biology, used for genetic manipulation. The amount of data collected in the past few years will lead zebrafish to became a common functional tool for assessing rapidly drug efficacy and off-target effects in neuromuscular diseases and, furthermore, to shed light on new etiologies emerging from large-scale massive sequencing studies.

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