Story in Agricultural Research magazine.
New Technique to Measure Leptin Activity By
May 8, 2000
Chicken meat is already lean, but
Agricultural Research Service scientists
have made a key genetic discovery that could help produce chickens with even
Chris Ashwell of the agencys
Growth Biology Laboratory
in Beltsville, Md., recently discovered a protein, called leptin, in chickens.
Leptin has long been associated with obesity but until now had been found only
in mammals such as pigs, cows, mice and humans. Now Ashwell and colleagues Mark
Richards and John McMurtry have developed a technique to study the hormonal
activity of leptin in chickens.
Maximizing meat quality and improving production efficiency are
major goals for scientists studying chickens. Thats because breeding
broiler chickens for growth has resulted in increased fat depositionand
reduced reproductive efficiencyin the birds.
Leptin, which regulates appetite and energy expenditure, can lead
to extreme obesity, diabetes, and infertility in mammals if the
leptin-producing gene is defective. Leptin is found in fat tissue of mammals
and chickens, but in chickens its also found in the liver.
Ashwell and his team hope to use their technique to regulate the
leptin levels in chickens and reduce the birds appetites. This would make
it easier to manage broiler production and still provide consumers with quality
meat. According to Ashwell, commercial industries may eventually use the
technique to select birds for feeding behavior that does not affect the growth
of young birds.
The technique, perfected by Richards and Ashwell, used a method
called capillary electrophoresis to distinguish and measure genetic material
unique to leptin. The process takes only eight minutes. The team won an award
from Beckman Coulter, Inc., for
achievements in capillary electrophoresis with this technique.
about the research appears in the May issue of ARS' Agricultural Research magazine.
Scientific contacts: Christopher M. Ashwell, Mark P.
Richards, and John P. McMurtry, ARS
Growth Biology Laboratory,
10300 Baltimore Ave., Bldg. 200, Room 201, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350; phone
(301) 504-5061, fax (301) 504-8623,