Science!: Chickens, Musclefish and X-Ray Vision

Lauren Admire | 15 Mar 2010 21:00

A Fish That Can Kick Your Ass

Scientists have found a way to engineer rainbow trout with six-pack abs and muscular shoulders, an Arnold Schwarzenegger of the fish world. I don't know about you, but I'm more creeped out by this over-muscled fish than I was of Richard Sandrak.

Terry Bradley, a professor at University of Rhode Island, studies myostatin, a protein that slows muscle growth, and has been trying to find ways to inhibit it in fish such as the rainbow trout. Unlike mammals, where the amount of muscle fibers is severely limited after birth, the muscle fibers within fish can increase throughout their entire lifespan. When you inhibit myostatin, the number of these muscle fibers can grow exponentially.

To produce the over-muscled trouts, Bradley and his graduate students spent 500 hours injecting 20,000 rainbow eggs with various genes that would inhibit myostatin. Eventually, they produced enough fish with genetic material that would naturally limit myostatin, and the Six Pack Rainbow Trout was born.

About 500,000 metric tons of trout are raised each year in the United States and Europe. I can't even imagine how much it costs to feed all those fish. Bradley's over-muscled trout could allow aquaculturists to grow larger fish without an increase in the amount of food they are given.

However, I have to wonder about the relative health of overly-muscled fish. After all, cows that are bred for superior muscle mass often collapse under their own weight and have more leg and joint problems than regular-sized cows. What kind of health issues will breeding a muscled trout cause? Will animal welfare be overlooked in favor of a smaller price tag on fish food?

Source: Science Daily


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