For years, clinical studies involving human volunteers and several known pre-clinical in vivo models (i.e., mice, guinea pigs) have demonstrated their reliability in evaluating the effectiveness of a number of depigmenting agents. Although these models have great advantages, they also suffer from several drawbacks, especially involving ethical issues regarding experimentation. At present, a new depigmenting model using zebrafish has been proposed and demonstrated. The application of this model for screening and studying the depigmenting activity of many bioactive compounds has been given great attention in genetics, medicinal chemistry and even the cosmetic industry. Depigmenting studies using this model have been recognized as noteworthy approaches to investigating the antimelanogenic activity of bioactive compounds in vivo. This article details the current knowledge of zebrafish pigmentation and its reliability as a model for the screening and development of depigmenting agents. Several methods to quantify the antimelanogenic activity of bioactive compounds in this model, such as phenotype-based screening, melanin content, tyrosinase inhibitory activity, other related proteins and transcription genes, are reviewed. Depigmenting activity of several bioactive compounds which have been reported towards this model are compared in terms of their molecular structure and possible mode of actions. This includes patented materials with regard to the application of zebrafish as a depigmenting model, in order to give an insight of its intellectual value. At the end of this article, some limitations are highlighted and several recommendations are suggested for improvement of future studies.
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