Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Of Canines and Obesity

Many people in the United States own dogs, and much of the time, regular exercise and walks keep these dogs filled with energy, playing with and following their owners with vigor. However, just like humans, dogs can become lethargic and eat too much, becoming overweight and not wanting to move much at all. The dog breed that seems to have the most trouble with this specific problem is one of the more popular breeds in the United States, the Labrador retriever.

Researchers from the Cambridge University labs has concluded that this abnormality is due to a DNA variation that keeps the brain from sending signals to the body that it is satisfied. Most of the time, when animals eat food, receptors in their brain make sure to activate when too much food enters the body. This sometimes manifests into a stomach ache to warn the body that the amount of food is excess, or in a more extreme case, send a message to the body to throw up to get rid of said excess food. However, in some animals like the Labrador retriever, the receptors are damaged by a gene variation, and up to 23% of all Labrador retrievers have at least one copy of this variation.

This gene being affected is called pro-opiomelanocortinm or POMC for short, and it codes for a protein of the same name.This gene controls hunger and fullness, and a variation can cause a delay or absence of feeling full. According to the article "the brains of Labrador retrievers may be hard wired for obesity," but as Eleanor Raffan, the author of the journal Cell Metabolism, says, it's "not a straight forward picture." What is straightforward is that when numerous dogs were studies and had their behavior profiles analyzed, it was discovered that in the POMC, there was a deletion of the 14th base pair resulted in a β-MSH and β-endorphin break, and that break is related to fat creation and increased body weight. In an interesting turn of events, most of the endorphin breaks happened in service dog, which prompted scientists to learn more about the gene so that they could try and find a connection between humans and dogs in terms of the POMC gene, since both species have the variation in slightly different forms.

Finding out if the genes in Labrador retrievers correspond to human genes would be very beneficial to human health because scientists can see what happens in human minds to trigger people to eat more then they should, and if they can isolate and fix the gene, or at least keep tabs on it, then work for a cure to obesity could be in the works, and that project would be worthwhile to the entirety of human health, as well as animal health if the Labrador genes are isolated and studied too.

1 comment:

  1. This is very curious. It seems to me that the correllation between POMC and service dogs is likely a product of gene linkage. This could be very similar to the likage between droopy ears and a curled tail in domesticated dogs and cats.