Neurodegenerative retinal diseases, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, involve a gradual loss of neurons in the retina as the disease progresses. Central nervous system neurons are not able to regenerate in mammals, therefore, an often sought after course of treatment for neuronal loss follows a neuroprotective or regenerative strategy. Neuroprotection is the process of preserving the structure and function of the neurons that have survived a harmful insult; while regenerative approaches aim to replace or rewire the neurons and synaptic connections that were lost, or induce regrowth of damaged axons or dendrites. In order to test the neuroprotective effectiveness or the regenerative capacity of a particular agent, a robust experimental model of retinal neuronal damage is essential. Zebrafish are being used more often in this type of study because their eye structure and development is well-conserved between zebrafish and mammals. Zebrafish are robust genetic tools and are relatively inexpensive to maintain. The large array of functional and behavioral tests available in zebrafish makes them an attractive model for neuroprotection studies. Some common insults used to model retinal disease and study neuroprotection in zebrafish include intense light, chemical toxicity and mechanical damage. This review covers the existing retinal neuroprotection and regeneration literature in the zebrafish and highlights their potential for future studies.
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