Scientists have discovered an elusive, mutated gene named for the Greek goddess, Aphrodite Kallipygos, that causes certain sheep to have unusually big and muscular bottoms. They hope the genetic mutation will illuminate how muscle and fat are deposited in these animals and possibly in humans.
The discovery is especially exciting, said the researchers, because the unusual gene has evaded all the traditional means of detection for nearly a decade. In fact, the gene appears to represent one of numerous stealth genes, called “imprinted,” that have yet to be discovered but which could produce a wide range of diseases.
Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Duke University Medical Center discovered a gene called “callipyge,” (pronounced cal - ah - PEEJ) meaning “beautiful buttocks” in Greek, because the sheep have large, muscular bottoms with very little fat. Such an attribute could prove beneficial in breeding these sheep because it enables them to convert food into muscle 30 percent more efficiently than normal sheep. Moreover, the gene could explain specific processes that give rise to obesity and fat metabolism, said Randy Jirtle, Ph.D., professor of radiation oncology at Duke and co-author of the study.
Rebecca Levine | EurekAlert!
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