The zebrafish is an excellent model system to study vertebrate blood cell development due to a highly conserved hematopoietic system, optical transparency, and amenability to both forward and reverse genetic approaches. The development of functional assays to analyze the biology of hematopoietic mutants and diseased animals remains a work in progress. Here we discuss recent advances in zebrafish hematology, prospective isolation techniques, cellular transplantation, and culture-based assays that now provide more rigorous tests of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell function. Together with the proven strengths of the zebrafish, the development and refinement of these assays further enable efforts to better understand the development and evolution of the vertebrate hematopoietic system.
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