The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is one of the most popular vertebrate systems for studying developmental genetics, primarily due to a number of advantageous features, including high fecundity, generation of many transparent embryos that develop outside the mother (in the water), and the conservation of the vertebrate organs, which allows comparison with that of humans. Thanks to the development of methods for transgenesis and genome-editing (especially CRISPr/Cas9 technology) zebrafish has recently "exploded" as powerful experimental model for in vivo studies of human diseases, including tumors.

Organization and purposes of the Zebrafish Unit

The Zebrafish Unit is entirely dedicated to the maintenance and use for scientific purposes of zebrafish strains (and/or other small freshwater fish) and provides a direct access to the zebrafish. It includes:

  • A big fish facility, which houses an automatized multi-rack aquarium system with a thousand of tanks and a flow rate of approximately 4.000 liters of water, that is able to hold more than 15.000 zebrafish.
  • 2 independent cabinets (standalones) of 175 liters each, one of them dedicated to the quarantine.
  • A laboratory equipped for molecular biology, microinjections, light - fluorescence and confocal microscopy.

Facility staff manages all aquarium maintenance and water quality monitoring, feeding, and breeding of animals to be raised in the facility. Thanks to our facility, investigators and scientific groups have the possibility to analyze and study in vivo, in a vertebrate model system, the function and the role of the homologues of human genes involved in human diseases and developmental biology. Moreover, zebrafish embryos represent a powerful platform for genetic and drug screening.


The Zebrafish Unit offers a wide range of services and helps researchers through the entire course of their projects. Training is available for a wide variety of techniques, providing a lot of well-established protocols, as well as assistance with assay development and experimental design. In particular, we offer:

housing and animal care

Mass Spectrometry
  • We provide all the help and support in the importation from other facilities of new strains, in the maintenance and feeding of fish, in the breeding, screening and genotyping. Animal care, breeding and experimental procedures are done in accordance with the Decreto legislativo 4 marzo 2014, n. 26, which enforces the Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. Cogentech animal facilities are fully authorized by the Italian Ministry of Health.

Generation of genetically
modified strains

  • Thanks to the application of Tol2/Gal4-UAS system and “genome-editing” techniques (in particular CRISPr/Cas9 system), we have the possibility to generate new zebrafish strains and characterize embryogenesis and/or human disease models.

of gene

Data Analysis
    In order to study the function of genes of interest or to validate a model system, we provide a series of services, including:
  • DNA, RNA, morpholino or protein injection.
  • Analysis of mRNA and protein expression (in-situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry and IF) on whole-mount or paraffin, cryostat and vibratome sections.
  • Western Blot analysis.
  • Analysis of mutant and “morphant” embryos and treatment with inhibitor compounds.
  • Imaging techniques: high-resolution confocal microscopy (SP2, SP8 and light-sheet), light and fluorescent microscopy, live imaging and time-lapse experiments.
  • Chemical and drug screens on embryos.
  • Staff and Contacts

    Gianluca Deflorian

    Gianluca Deflorian

    Facility Manager
    Born in Trento, Gianluca Deflorian studied at University of Padova, where he graduated in 2000 in Molecular Biology, contributing to the development of new methods to detect in vivo the expression of genes in the brain of Drosophila melanogaster, and few years later he holds a PhD in Genetics and Molecular Biology of Development.
    It was during his PhD project that he started to work on the zebrafish as model organism and very soon he became enamored of this model, attracted by the huge potential that this vertebrate organism offered, and still offers, for researchers engaged especially in the study of developmental biology and human genetic diseases.
    He works at IFOM since 2006 and, since 2009, he is responsible for the Zebrafish Unit. He participated to numerous international conferences and, thanks to his work, his publications and many scientific collaborations undertaken, it is one of the leading experts in Italy of this model organism.

    Manuela Capillo

    Manuela Capillo

    Designated Veterinarian
    Manuela graduated in Veterinary Medicine in 1993 and specialized in Laboratory Animal Science and Medicine in 2002 at the University of Milan. Since 1998 she has been working as veterinary consultant for a large research center in Milan. Currently she is the designated veterinarian (D.Lgs 26/14) of IFOM and Cogentech. Her interests are mainly focused on aspects relating to the health and welfare of laboratory animals, in particular she offers technical-scientific support to rodents, fish and frog facilities and contributes to staff training and courses on laboratory animal science.


    • Phone
      +39 02 574 303 819
    • Email
      zebrafish-service [@]