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Zebrafish make good 'guinea pigs' for human drugs

Zebrafish need Prozac like they need a bicycle, yet recording how various molecules affect their behaviour may be the perfect way to discover treatments for mental illness and neurological diseases.

Most brain drugs are variations on 50-year-old medicines, says Randall Peterson of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, so new ones can't come soon enough. Because zebrafish have a similar brain chemistry to humans, how they respond to certain drugs might indicate how the same drugs will affect people.

To investigate, Peterson's team exposed zebrafish embryos to thousands of drugs and recorded how each affected their reaction to a flash of light or a slight poke (Nature Chemical Biology, DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.307).

Meanwhile, Alexander Schier at Harvard University and colleagues measured how various drugs changed the sleep-wake cycles of zebrafish larvae (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1183090).

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