“Out of the Dark” Cavefish Are Entering Biomedical Research

  • Nicolas RohnerEmail author


The emergence of cheaper sequencing platforms and more widely applicable genome editing techniques is empowering new model organisms to emerge in the field of biomedical science. A promising branch of such organisms are the so-called evolutionary mutant models. To be covered by this definition, an animal must display phenotypes reminiscent of human pathologies, but these phenotypes must be part of the animal’s natural condition. In other words, these animals are not considered sick, but rather they have evolved disease-like traits as part of their strategy to survive in the wild. The cavefish Astyanax mexicanus is such an animal species. A. mexicanus displays many traits resembling a variety of human pathologies including retinal degenerations, diabetes-like phenotypes, and even psychiatric diseases. The study of evolutionary mutant models, such as the cavefish, promises to provide important new insights into human pathologies by offering a different perspective compared to the classical model systems. Here, I introduce the cavefish model system Astyanax mexicanus to the reader and provide an overview of the latest efforts to establish this species as a valid member of animal models that are successfully used in biomedical research.


Cavefish Astyanax mexicanus Adaptation Evolutionary mutant models Albinism Blindness Asymmetry Autism Sleep loss Circadian rhythm Regeneration Obesity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stowers Institute for Medical ResearchKansas CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Molecular & Integrative PhysiologyKU Medical CenterKansas CityUSA

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