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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 287847, 16 pages
Review Article

Fishing for Nature’s Hits: Establishment of the Zebrafish as a Model for Screening Antidiabetic Natural Products

1New Drug Targets Laboratory, School of Life Sciences, Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, Gwangju 500-712, Republic of Korea
2Department of Endocrinology, Yanji Hospital, Jilin 133000, China

Received 31 August 2015; Accepted 28 October 2015

Academic Editor: Attila Hunyadi

Copyright © 2015 Nadia Tabassum et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Diabetes mellitus affects millions of people worldwide and significantly impacts their quality of life. Moreover, life threatening diseases, such as myocardial infarction, blindness, and renal disorders, increase the morbidity rate associated with diabetes. Various natural products from medicinal plants have shown potential as antidiabetes agents in cell-based screening systems. However, many of these potential “hits” fail in mammalian tests, due to issues such as poor pharmacokinetics and/or toxic side effects. To address this problem, the zebrafish (Danio rerio) model has been developed as a “bridge” to provide an experimentally convenient animal-based screening system to identify drug candidates that are active in vivo. In this review, we discuss the application of zebrafish to drug screening technologies for diabetes research. Specifically, the discovery of natural product-based antidiabetes compounds using zebrafish will be described. For example, it has recently been demonstrated that antidiabetic natural compounds can be identified in zebrafish using activity guided fractionation of crude plant extracts. Moreover, the development of fluorescent-tagged glucose bioprobes has allowed the screening of natural product-based modulators of glucose homeostasis in zebrafish. We hope that the discussion of these advances will illustrate the value and simplicity of establishing zebrafish-based assays for antidiabetic compounds in natural products-based laboratories.