Casting a wide net: Use of diverse model organisms to advance toxicology

Mark E. Hahn, Kirsten C. Sadler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Toxicology - the study of how chemicals interact with biological systems - has clear relevance to human health and disease. Persistent exposure to natural and synthetic chemicals is an unavoidable part of living on our planet; yet, we understand very little about the effects of exposure to the vast majority of chemicals. While epidemiological studies can provide strong statistical inference linking chemical exposure to disease, research in model systems is essential to elucidate the mechanisms of action and to predict outcomes. Most research in toxicology utilizes a handful of mammalian models that represent a few distinct branches of the evolutionary tree. This narrow focus constrains the understanding of chemical-induced disease processes and systems that have evolved in response to exposures. We advocate for casting awider net in environmental toxicology research to utilize diverse model systems, including zebrafish, and perform more mechanistic studies of cellular responses to chemical exposures to shift the perception of toxicology as an applied science to that of a basic science. This more-inclusive perspective will enrich the field and should remain central to research on chemical-induced disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberdmm043844
JournalDMM Disease Models and Mechanisms
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • Animal models
  • Toxicants
  • Toxicology
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Immunology and Microbiology (miscellaneous)
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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