Zebrafish Tools for the Screening of Osteogenic Compounds | - CCMAR -

Zebrafish Tools for the Screening of Osteogenic Compounds

Monday, July 15, 2019 to Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Course Description 

----------------------------------------   REGISTRATION DEADLINE EXTENDED UNTIL 8th OF JULY  -----------------------------------------


Bone disorders affect millions of people worldwide and current treatments have a limited efficacy often accompanied by side effects. The discovery of novel bone anabolic compounds with either pharmaceutical or nutraceutical value is thus needed. The zebrafish has recently emerged as a model for human bone diseases but also as a system for the screening of compounds that would treat or prevent these diseases. Beyond the technical advantages over traditional models (e.g. rodents), the high similarity of targets, physiology, drug metabolism and pharmacology in comparison to humans further highlights the potential of zebrafish as a robust model for drug screenings. The BIOSKEL lab (CCMAR, University of Algarve) has developed several zebrafish assays to evaluate the osteogenic potential of natural or synthetic compounds. Within the scope of the training workshop here presented, we propose to share both the theoretical and practical knowledge required to go through all the steps of those procedures. 

Main topics:

  • Basis of zebrafish biology and husbandry
  • Current knowledge on drug screenings
  • Ways of exposing zebrafish to experimental compounds
  • Imaging of bone structures and morphometric analysis
  • Assessment of compound osteogenic and regenerative potential

Zebrafish tools presented in this workshop are the basis of a first-line medium throughput screening methodology.

In the drug discovery pipeline, first line screenings represent a critical filter to reduce the amount of compounds to be further tested and are therefore time and money savers. Until recently, in vitro cell systems or in vivo rodent systems were commonly used, although several bottlenecks existed (e.g. a cell line cannot represent the complexity of a whole organism, rodents are slow growers, expensive to maintain and have an intra-uterine early development). However, in vivo zebrafish systems overcome those obstacles and have emerged as a promising alternative to the traditional systems.   

This workshop will provide both conceptual and experimental know-how on zebrafish screening systems through lectures given by experts in the field. Attendees will also have the opportunity to acquire some technical expertise through hands-on sessions where they will learn to manipulate zebrafish tools toward the screening of osteoactives. 


Basic formation in biology, biomedical sciences or biochemistry. Knowledge of basic molecular biology techniques is necessary to understand some concepts.

IMPORTANT: Participants are asked to bring their own computers to perform the image analysis and morphometric assessments. If possible ImageJ should be previously installed (available for free at https://imagej.net)


Monday 15th – Zebrafish husbandry and drug screening

9:00 - Welcome Reception 

A welcome reception in the presence of the local representatives of the ASSEMBLE+ project will initiate the workshop then an overview of CCMAR main infrastructures and areas of research will be given. In a short (5 min) presentation, attendees will present their scientific background and research interests.

11:00 - Coffee-break 

11:30 - Basis of zebrafish biology and husbandry. (Paulo Gavaia, CCMAR & Gil Martins, CCMAR)

12:15 - Skeletal biology and metabolism: cell types and mechanisms underlying bone formation and remodeling. (João Cardeira, MPI-HLR)

13:00 - Lunch 

14:00 - Visit of BIOSKEL zebrafish facilities

14:30 - Basic principles of drug screenings; Zebrafish screening systems; Methods used to administrate compounds (e.g. waterborne, embryo microinjection, intraperitoneal injection and dietary supplementation). (Vincent Laizé, CCMAR & Jorge Dias, SPAROS Lda)

15:30 - Hands-on 1: Manipulation of zebrafish at several developmental stages; Microinjection of fertilized eggs; Intraperitoneal injection of adult specimens. (Paulo Gavaia, CCMAR; João Cardeira, MPI-HLR; Marco Tarasco, CCMAR; Gil Martins, CCMAR)

16:30 - Coffee-break 

17:00 - Hands-on 1 (continuation)


Tuesday 16th – Screening for osteogenic compounds: the operculum based-system

10:00 - Zebrafish genetics: principles of transgenesis and mutagenesis. (Anabela Bensimon-Brito, MPI-HLR)

11:00 - Zebrafish toolbox: mutant lines modeling human bone disorders and transgenic lines/in vivo systems to assess osteogenic or osteotoxic activities. (M. Leonor Cancela, CCMAR-UALG)

12:00 - Coffee-break

12:30 - Zebrafish models for bone development and disease studies: a focus on the operculum, calvaria and vertebral column based-system to assess and study the osteogenic potential of natural extracts and purified compounds. (Marco Tarasco, CCMAR & Anabela Bensimon-Brito, MPI-HLR)

13:30 - Lunch

14:30 - Staining and imaging bone structures for morphometric analysis and assessment of the osteogenic potential of compounds. (Anabela Bensimon-Brito, MPI-HLR)

15:30 - Hands-on 2: Exposure of zebrafish larvae to experimental compounds; Alizarin red staining of zebrafish larvae and visualization of calcified structures; Imaging of the opercular bone using a fluorescence stereomicroscope. (Marco Tarasco, CCMAR; Joana Rosa, CCMAR; João Cardeira, MPI-HLR; Anabela Bensimon-Brito, MPI-HLR; Vânia Roberto, CCMAR; Gil Martins, CCMAR)

17:00 - Coffee-break

17:30 Hands-on 3: Image analysis and morphometric assessment of the operculum. (Marco Tarasco, CCMAR; Joana Rosa, CCMAR; Vânia Roberto, CCMAR)

20:30 Workshop dinner (optional)


Wednesday 17th  – Drug screening and regeneration: the caudal fin based-system

10:00 - Basis of regenerative medicine. Bone regeneration in vertebrates. Zebrafish as a regenerative model. (João Cardeira, MPI-HLR)

10:45 - The zebrafish caudal fin and scales systems to assess and study the osteogenic and regenerative potential of natural extracts and purified compounds. (João Cardeira, MPI-HLR & Marco Tarasco, CCMAR)

11:30: Coffee-break

12:00 - Basis of caudal fin imaging acquisition, image analysis and data processing regarding the osteogenic/regenerative potential of compounds. (João Cardeira, MPI-HLR & Marco Tarasco, CCMAR)

13:00 - Lunch

14:00 - Hands-on 4: Caudal fin amputation; Alizarin red in vivo staining; visualization and imaging of the newly formed lepidotrichia using a fluorescence stereomicroscope. (Marco Tarasco, CCMAR; João Cardeira, MPI-HLR; Anabela Bemsimon-Brito, MPI-HLR)

15:30 - Coffee-break

16:00 - Hands-on 5: Image analysis and morphometric assessment of new bone mineralization and patterning. (Marco Tarasco, CCMAR; João Cardeira, MPI-HLR; Joana Rosa, CCMAR)


Intended Audience 
Enthusiastic and motivated biologists, biomedical researchers and students who want to gain expertise in the use of zebrafish as a screening model for osteogenic compounds. Number of participants limited to a maximum of 15.
Scientific Organisation 

M. Leonor Cancela

Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) & Department of Biomedical Sciences and Medicine (DCBM) - UALG, Faro, Portugal

Vincent Laizé

Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) - UALG, Faro, Portugal
Vincent Laizé has a PhD in molecular Biophysics. He has joined the BIOSKEL lab at the CCMAR to study the mechanisms underlying bone formation and mineralization using fish in vitro and in vivo systems. He has participated in the development of the first cell lines of fish origin capable of in vitro biomineralization and is currently involved in the bioprospection of osteoactive compounds in several marine resources toward the development of pharmaceutical and nutraceutical solutions for human bone disorders.

Paulo J. Gavaia

Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) - UALG, Faro, Portugal
Paulo Gavaia obtained his PhD in Biological Sciences. During this time, he acquired expertize in the use of marine fish and zebrafish in the fields of skeletal biology using cellular and molecular biology as tools to identify molecular regulators of calcification with biomedical applications. He joined the CCMAR as a staff Researcher of the BIOSKEL in 2007 and established a zebrafish facility to give support to the I&D activities centered in Comparative, Adaptive and Functional Skeletal Biology and in biomedical and pharmaceutic applications.

Anabela Bensimon-Brito

Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research (MPI-HLR), Bad Nauheim, Germany
Anabela Bensimon-Brito has a joint PhD in Biological and Biomedical Sciences by UGent/UAlg where she characterized the vertebral column development in zebrafish. Since then, she worked on fin regeneration, leading to the optimization of imaging techniques for in vivo characterization of bone. Presently Anabela is a Postdoctoral Researcher working in Didier Stainier’s Lab, where she developed a new model for cardiac valve regeneration. She is also leading a project adapting in vivo imaging techniques to the adult zebrafish, including Echocardiography, MRI and Micro-CT.

João Cardeira

Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research (MPI-HLR), Bad Nauheim, Germany
João Cardeira has a PhD in Mechanisms of Disease and Regenerative Medicine. During this period his research centered on the mechanisms underlying bone regeneration, using the regenerating zebrafish caudal fin as a studying model. He focused on how bone is patterned during regeneration, on how different bone cells play important roles during this morphogenetic process, while also developing quantitative tools to address bone regeneration. Recently, in 2018, he joined the Max-Planck-Institute for Heart and Lung Research, where he is developing work in the field of zebrafish cardiac regeneration.

Marco Tarasco

Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) - UALG, Faro, Portugal
Marco Tarasco, PhD student in BIOSKEL Lab, is currently studying the effects of environmental pollutants on bone development and regeneration to gain insights into the molecular mechanism underlying osteotoxicity. He has been particularly interested in the development of new tools to better understand the effect of compounds on bone homeostasis and during his master thesis he has developed and optimized the zebrafish operculum as a system to screen osteoactive compounds.

Gil Martins

Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) - UALG, Faro, Portugal
Gil Martins has a MSc. In Aquaculture and Fisheries with specialization in zebrafish nutrition. Since 2014, he has been working as a zebrafish facility manager at CCMAR and collaborated in numerous research projects on the field of skeletal biology and fish reproduction. In the last years, Gil work has been focus on the optimization of zebrafish rearing conditions and determination of zebrafish nutritional requirements.

Vânia P. Roberto

Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) - UALG, Faro, Portugal
Vânia P. Roberto has a PhD in Biomedical Sciences. Her work has been focused on the epigenetic mechanisms underlying gene expression regulation in bone development and human diseases. Using cell-based systems and animal models she could characterize the function of 3 microRNAs in skeletogenesis. Currently, she is a member of the BIOSKEL Lab working on the beneficial impact of vitamin K1 in the skeleton and its potential effects at an epigenetic level.

Joana T. Rosa

Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) - UALG, Faro, Portugal
Joana T. Rosa has a PhD in Molecular Biology. During her scientific career, she has been using fish models to study a wide range of questions related to the development, structure, and evolution of the skeleton. She has characterized new markers for skeletal development, developed new tools for bone and cartilage studies and validated the functionality of several mammalian tools in fish. Currently, she is working at BIOSKEL Lab on bioprospection toward the discovery of innovative compounds for human bone applications.

Accommodation: Booking and payment must be arranged directly by the Trainee or Home Institution. A list of suggested hotels is provided below:


CCMAR - Centre of Marine Sciences

University of Algarve
Campus de Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal

Tel: +351 289 800 057, +351 289 800 900 ext. 7057

Fax: +351 289 800 069

Type of Training 
Advanced Training
Presentation Language  
Fee (starting from...) 
€ 100.00
Fee Covers 
  • All course materials
  • Coffe breaks
  • Lunches
Danio rerio, Operculum development, Caudal fin regeneration, Osteogenic activity, Drug screening