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Small freshwater fish models, especially zebrafish, offer advantages over traditional rodent models, including low maintenance and husbandry costs, high fecundity, genetic diversity, physiology similar to that of traditional biomedical models, and reduced animal welfare concerns. The Collaborative Workshop on Aquatic Models and 21st Century Toxicology was held at North Carolina State University on May 5-6, 2014, in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. Participants discussed the ways in which small fish are being used as models to screen toxicants and understand mechanisms of toxicity. Workshop participants agreed that the lack of standardized protocols is an impediment to broader acceptance of these models, whereas development of standardized protocols, validation, and subsequent regulatory acceptance would facilitate greater usage. Given the advantages and increasing application of small fish models, there was widespread interest in follow-up workshops to review and discuss developments in their use. In this article, we summarize the recommendations formulated by workshop participants to enhance the utility of small fish species in toxicology studies, as well as many of the advances in the field of toxicology that resulted from using small fish species, including advances in developmental toxicology, cardiovascular toxicology, neurotoxicology, and immunotoxicology. We also review many emerging issues that will benefit from using small fish species, especially zebrafish, and new technologies that will enable using these organisms to yield results unprecedented in their information content to better understand how toxicants affect development and health.
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