Researchers Explore Possible Changes in Body Composition of Future Pigs
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
May 21, 1999
Jill Lee, (301) 504-1627, firstname.lastname@example.org
Two natural animal hormones are critical to developing fat cells in fetal
pigs. One increases the number of fat cells; the other makes fat cells
bigger. They work best together, say researchers--and knowing this may
someday make leaner pork possible.
The scientists, with the Agricultural Research Service, found these hormones
of the thyroid and adrenal glands work in tandem to give fetal pigs the
sustaining layers of fat they will need after birth.
The thyroid hormone increases fat cell numbers; the adrenal one increases
their size. Together they allow for a greater increase in fat than either
hormone alone, according to the lead researcher, animal physiologist Gary J.
Hausman. He's at the Animal Physiology Research Unit of ARS' Richard B.
Russell Agricultural Research Center in Athens, Ga.
Hausman and colleagues studied the role of these hormones by treating fetal
pigs with thyroxine (a thyroid hormone) or hydrocortisone (an adrenal
hormone) at various stages of gestation. Other fetal pigs received both
hormones. Results showed the hormone combination caused more fat deposition
than either hormone alone.
The study results suggest the potential for an opportunity for producing
leaner pork by reducing levels of one of the hormones in a fetal pig or
piglet. The scientists reason that since the hormones' combined activity
accelerates fat gains, restricting their "partnership"--by limiting one of
the hormones--might reduce the fat gains. This might be done by breeding or
through treatments as the piglet grows.
By understanding the biology of fat hormones, the researchers hope to learn
more about reducing fat in pork. This information could also be useful to
medical researchers seeking to understand factors contributing to obesity in
ARS is the chief scientific agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Scientific contact: Gary Hausman, ARS Richard B. Russell Agricultural
Research Center, Athens, Ga., phone (706) 546-3584, fax (706) 546-3586,
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