Erythrocytes contain oxygen-carrying hemoglobin to all body cells. Impairments in the generation of erythrocytes, a process known as erythropoiesis, or in hemoglobin synthesis alter cell function because of decreased oxygen supply and lead to anemic diseases. Thus, understanding how erythropoiesis is regulated during embryogenesis and adulthood is important to develop novel therapies for anemia. The zebrafish, Danio rerio, provides a powerful model for such study. Their small size and the ability to generate a large number of embryos enable large-scale analysis, and their transparency facilitates the visualization of erythroid cell migration. Importantly, the high conservation of hematopoietic genes among vertebrates and the ability to successfully transplant hematopoietic cells into fish have enabled the establishment of models of human anemic diseases in fish. In this review, we summarize the current progress in our understanding of erythropoiesis on the basis of zebrafish studies and highlight fish models of human anemias. These analyses could enable the discovery of novel drugs as future therapies.
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