This study aimed to develop a simple and cost-effective method to measure blood flow in zebrafish by using an image-based approach. Three days post fertilization (dpf) zebrafish embryos were mounted with methylcellulose and subjected to video recording for tracking blood flow under an inverted microscope equipped with a high-speed CCD camera. In addition, Hoffman lens was used to enhance the blood cell contrast. The red blood cell movement was tracked by using the TrackMate plug-in in the ImageJ image processing program. Moreover, Stack Difference and Time Series Analyzer plug-in were used to detect dynamic pixel changes over time to calculate the blood flow rate. In addition to blood flow velocity and heart rate, the effect of drug treatments on other cardiovascular function parameters, such as stroke volume and cardiac output remains to be explored. Therefore, by using this method, the potential side effects on the cardiovascular performance of ethyl 3-aminobenzoate methanesulfonate (MS222) and 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine (IBMX) were evaluated. MS222 is a common anesthetic, while IBMX is a naturally occurring methylxanthine. Compared to normal embryos, MS222- and IBMX-treated embryos had a reduced blood flow velocity by approximately 72% and 58%, respectively. This study showed that MS222 significantly decreased the heart rate, whereas IBMX increased the heart rate. Moreover, it also demonstrated that MS222 treatment reduced 50% of the stroke volume and cardiac output. While IBMX decreased the stroke volume only. The results are in line with previous studies that used expensive instruments and complicated software analysis to assess cardiovascular function. In conclusion, a simple and low-cost method can be used to study blood flow in zebrafish embryos for compound screening. Furthermore, it could provide a precise measurement of clinically relevant cardiac functions, specifically heart rate, stroke volume, and cardiac output.
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