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Pilot study grant

Finding effective analgesics in zebrafish by analysing effects on the nervous system (CNS)

Zebra fishes in tank

At a glance

Award date
October 2013 - September 2014
Grant amount
Principal investigator
Professor Catherina Becker


University of Edinburgh


  • Refinement
Read the abstract
View the grant profile on GtR




This research aims to identify measurable changes in the central nervous system (CNS) of adult and larval zebrafish which are linked to pain perception, and to use these to refine zebrafish experiments by identifying effective analgesics.


The zebrafish is increasingly being used in biomedical research. Relatively little is known about pain perception (nociception) and effective analgesics in zebrafish. This research aims to help address this knowledge gap.

Efforts are underway to establish non-invasive measures of nociception, such as altered behaviour and cortisol measurements. This research aims to firmly link such measures to nociception, by establishing specific changes in gene expression and endogenous opiates in the CNS elicited by noxious stimuli. These will then be used to refine zebrafish experiments to minimise suffering by determining how a range of analgesics reduce nociception-related gene expression.

Research details and methods

This research will focus on identifying changes in the expression of immediate early genes and endogenous opiates in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, where primary nociception processing takes place. These changes will be identified following intramuscular injection of mustard oil in adult fish and compared to control groups receiving injections of vehicle only.

Once candidate gene expression and endogenous opiate changes have been identified, the research will determine how potential analgesics reduce nociception-related gene expression, identifying those which function effectively in zebrafish.