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Transgenic trout given body-builder physique with six-pack abs


March 11, 2010

What are you lookin' at? The transgenic trout flexes its six-pack

What are you lookin' at? The transgenic trout flexes its six-pack

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Researchers have developed transgenic rainbow trout with enhanced muscle growth that results in fish with what have been described as six-pack abs and muscular shoulders. Aside from ensuring the muscular trout don’t get bullied by other fish, the development could provide a boost to the commercial aquaculture industry.

The transgenic trout are the result of a ten-year effort by University of Rhode Island (URI) professor of fisheries and aquaculture, Terry Bradley, who researched the effect of inhibiting myostatin in the fish. Myostatin is a protein that is produced primarily in skeletal muscle cells, circulates in the blood and acts on muscle tissue to slow muscle growth.

According to Bradley, the number of muscle fibers in mammals is limited after birth, but in fish, muscle fiber numbers increase throughout their lifespan. Since inhibition of myostatin increases the numbers of muscle fibers, it had been a mystery as to whether inhibiting myostatin would cause an increase in muscle growth in fish.

“Belgian blue cattle have a natural mutation in myostatin causing a 20-25 percent increase in muscle mass, and mice over-expressing myostatin exhibit a two-fold increase in skeletal muscle mass. But fish have a very different mechanism of muscle growth than mammals, so we weren’t certain it was going to work,” Bradley said.

But work it did with the transgenic trout growing 15-20 percent more muscle mass than standard fish. To achieve this, Bradley and a team of graduate students spent 500 hours injecting 20,000 rainbow trout eggs with various DNA types designed to inhibit myostatin.

Of the eggs that hatched, 300 carried the gene that led to increased muscle growth. After two years, most exhibited a “six-pack ab” effect, even though fish lack standard abdominal muscles. They also had increased musculature throughout, including a prominent dorsal hump that made them look like they had muscular shoulders.

The first generation of transgenic trout were subsequently spawned, and offspring carrying the gene in all of their muscle cells have been produced. Studies are underway to determine if the fish grow at a faster rate, as well.

“Our findings are quite stunning,” said Bradley, who also studies salmon, flounder and tuna. “The results have significant implications for commercial aquaculture and provide completely novel information on the mechanisms of fish growth. The results also allow for comparisons between the mechanisms of growth of muscle in mammals versus fish, and it could shed light on muscle-wasting diseases in humans.”

About 500,000 metric tons of rainbow trout are raised each year in aquaculture facilities in the US and Europe. In the US, some 1,000 trout farms produce approximately US$80 million of trout annually, mostly in Idaho, New York, Pennsylvania and California. Assuming Bradley’s transgenic fish meet with regulatory approval, it could provide a boost to the industry by enabling aquaculturists to grow larger fish without increasing the amount of food the fish are fed.

“One of the advantages of this approach is that the modified genes introduced into the fish use the same mechanism and cause the same type of effect that occurs naturally in Belgian blue cattle and other ‘double muscled’ animals,” said Bradley.

While the transgenic trout may look like bodybuilders, Bradley said they exhibit normal behaviors. He will continue to study the fish to learn if the new gene affects any other genes, and to determine if new husbandry practices will aid in the raising of the trout.

Personally, I hope these muscle-bound trout don’t escape confinement. Getting sand kicked in my face by Herculean humans at the beach is bad enough – getting beaten up by a shoal of burly trout would be one humiliation too many.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Who the heck would want to eat that ? Short of Ricardo Montalban (star trek ref). Stop the rsch, esp if gov\'t funded, and kill all those fish before they get loose.


There is nothing scarier than this out there right now for fisheries-imaging the damage such a fish could wreak on the whole ecosystem if someone put it into the wild and they would! This should be banned way more than embryo testing, way more than any stem cell research or genetically altered crops. It is wrong and should be stopped immediately. I doubt they can make these male sterile.

Nick Gencarelle

We could save a lot of money for the school and taxpayers by firing morons that come up with these ideas! I would never eat any fish like this!


Killer Bees come to mind!

Facebook User

The concept is just disgusting. We really need to stop mucking around and genetically modifying food.

They think this will improve sales but it will have the opposite affect. Once other countries find out we are putting fish with bastardized DNA in with other fish, they will stop buying any of it. If you don\'t believe me, look into Monsanto and see what is going on right now with GE vegetables. (GMO food)

They are ruining things for everyone and worse still, run the risk of damaging the original DNA pool of the species by polluting it with this crap.

Raum Bances

I think that fears of this type of fish somehow escaping and wreaking havoc on the ecosystem are probably unfounded. There is almost always a down-side to being some kind of super animal. Rainbow trout have been about for some millions of years and, in that time, if the particular mutation that these fish have was advantageous in the wild, then it would have probably come about naturally. My guess would be that these fish need more food than a regular fish. They probably aren\'t as effective at surviving periods of starvation either, with their body constantly trying to manufacture more muscle mass. These kinds of consideration mean that this kind of fish would get on great in an environment where food is abundant (like in a fishery, with a farmer throwing food at them as fast as they can eat it), but much more poorly when food might not be so abundant. My guess would be that they would be rapidly out-competed by the wild trout.

On some level, it is arrogant of us a species to think that we could take something that has been hewn by nature over millions of years and improve it into some kind of super-being by making some simple changes.

On the eating front, meat is meat. There is no difference in eating meat from these fish to a normal trout.


Just a little fisheries/scientific facts FYI. One, that fish is obviously in spawning season, which explains the coloration. Stores don\'t sell spawning fish because of there apperance. Give that fish 6 months and it would be chrome. Second there are no natural populations of RBT in RI (they are stocked annually from hatcheries) and transgenic fish are already maintained in secure facilities. Third, transgenic fish can easily be sterilized by triploidy or other methods which are commonly performed. Fourth, that muscled look will likely only be present in the fish that had the DNA injected into them. It is a common side effect of making transgenic organisms that not all of the cell will contain the DNA in the parents. That fishes babies will look normal, just bigger, and those would be the fish you would eat. And finally, what the article doesn\'t describe is the significance of work like this to our understanding of the physiology of animals. It is just one step further to understanding what makes life work. I say the more informed we are about the world around us the better off we will be.


@Raum Bances There is nothing wrong with genetically modified food. In fact, everything you eat has been genetically modified! Even if you grow your own vegetables. Without genetically modified foods, half the worlds population would starve to death! Every piece of bread you eat, every apple you eat, every ear of corn you eat..is a hybrid...in other words, genetically modified! in fact, the original color of carrots is not orange. They are black/purple. They were genetically manipulated back in the 17th century for purely political reasons in order to appease the English Earl of Orange! http://www.nextnature.net/2009/08/why-are-carrots-orange-it-is-political/

And we can go back thousands of years for wheat! This crop has been so genetically modified, we don\'t even know what it\'s original genome was!

So, when you say you are against GMO foods, you are basically saying you want half the population of the planet earth to die. Because that is what would happen if we didn\'t genetically modify things to fit our every burgeoning population! Ed


Yeah, yeah. The REAL issue is: are the filets better when they\'re dusted with corn meal and fried in bacon fat, or grilled over coals and doused with a yummy, buttery amandine sauce?

I\'ve eaten uglier things than that, and so have you!


To the authors of the first 5 comments: if technology and its applications scare you so much, then why on earth are you even using a computer?

Darren Johnson

\"So, when you say you are against GMO foods, you are basically saying you want half the population of the planet earth to die. Because that is what would happen if we didn\'t genetically modify things to fit our every burgeoning population!\"

Ed.......I can say you are either a moron, or just doing your job as you are getting paid to say this by big companies. The problem with the food crisis has nothing to do with quantity but quality and accessibility.

Amed Mesa

Ed is right. Humans have been changing the characteristics of foodstuffs for hundreds if not thousands of years, whether they be animal or plant. Every time somebody selects one plant\'s seeds over another for cultivation because it grew bigger, faster, juicier, etc., that\'s artificially enhanced evolution at work. Nothing we eat today looks the same as it did 2000 years ago. What frightens the alarmist commenters are the more rapid changes allowed by genetic manipulation. The gradual changes that conventional agricultural and aquacultural practices produce simply wouldn\'t be as noticeable in their lifetimes, but would produce similar results in the end.

Besides, if you saw what many of the fishes you like to eat look like in the wild, you wouldn\'t find this fellow so disgusting.


I would NEVER eat this it looks like a mutant and no one cares what it will do to US in the long term. Or the other fish that will prey on these mutant steroid head trout. Wouldn\'t want to fight one though. Probably got a great head butt.


This is a perversion.

The cretins behind this should be skewered on steel poles and burned alive at the stake.

All of them.

Mr Stiffy

Frankenstein fish. They\'re playing god with nature!

Facebook User

Why can\'t scientists leave things the way God intended it to be?

Facebook User

I am disgraced at the amount of ignorant comments being made in this article. If you protest because of moral or religious reasons, then understand there is no reason to voice your opinion if it is only abusive and invites no discussion.

In the past religion refused to have people dissect the dead. Imagine if reason never came, we would not have medical science today, which saves millions. This experimentation with \"God\'s creatures\" has nothing to do with giving trout stronger muscles, sure, that is their canvas, but this is about genetic modification. The ability to develop these abnormal muscles in trout (in a controlled environment you paranoid skeptics) WILL progress, just like \"sinfully\" slicing up cadavers became bio-science.

What this video shows is amazing, not because I have a bias towards GM, but because this website allows me to see the constant evolving stages in science and technology. I don\'t understand how people who are signed up to read these are as hopeless to say \"The cretins behind this should be skewered on steel poles\", \"Killer Bees come to mind!\", \"We could save a lot of money for the school and taxpayers by firing morons that come up with these ideas!\"

Jas On


Yes, I would happily eat this.

Jas On

Genetic modification is not the same as selective evolution. Sooner or later these genetic modifications are going to cause real problems. At that point I want to see the perpetrators eat my shorts while I shout I TOLD YOU SO...


Yeah, why couldn\'t God have left well enough alone and let dirt and mud (or dust of the ground depending on which bible you read) the way it was intended to be? Instead he had to go and create Adam! Sheesh!


There is a huge difference between genetic modification and selective evolution. I am not even very against GMO\'s and think most people are misinformed about them. I even have friends who do the genetics for Monsanto. Basically they are just making us use less pesticides right now. But there have been problems and mistakes that were hidden or lied about. Just as there would be with fish. Fish however are NOTHING to mess with in this fashion-do you not have a clue as to the balance of nature that has taken thousands of years. So, lets just say man has been modifying things for a long time so it\'s ok? Stupid. This has danger written all over it. Hardly the level of dissecting the dead. It\'s nuts.

Nick Gencarelle

This is to weird

Facebook User

Ed, do not confuse hybridization with gene splicing. Hybrids are done mainly sexually and always using DNA from the same Genus (and usually the same species).

Gene splicing, on the other hand, is done by removing a segment of DNA and than shooting foreign DNA into the cell nucleus. In the case of this fish they used Bovine DNA to get the result.

At this point in time we humans simply do not know enough about genetics to be able predict what the effects will be in the future. For example, the genetic modification of GMO corn, soy, canola, etc.. is based on genetic theory that was debunked about 9 years ago-they thought that the DNA was what drove gene expression but have since discovered it is proteins that do this (and this theory may be in doubt now as we learn more and more how genetics works)

Lucy Owsley-Goodman

Hawaii has to be super-vigilent when it comes to anything shipped or flown into it\'s environment due to upsetting the ecology. They are vigilent because of past mistakes, either on purpose or by accident. Everyone knows a horror story of just introducing a species to a new continent, let alone a GM animal. Just look at what is happening to Florida since people started turning loose their \"pets\"! Having said all that, I am for careful GMF products, that do not tramp on those that choose to raise the unmodified versions. I am afraid there is no way to keep the gene pool separate when it comes to plants. And the GMF producer claims there product has been stolen when it naturally mixes with the unmodified ones! Go figure, it should be the other way around. If I don\'t want my chocolate mixed with your peanut butter then it\'s both of our responsibilities to make sure that doesn\'t happen! That aside, I also would eat this fish, (and worse-looking things) I remember the first time as a boy that I hunted and ate frog legs! I had to get over the thought first, then YUMMY!

Will, the tink

I don\'t like trout. Could they do a Salmon? I wish people could see that this kind of work, done responsibly, benifits mankind in so many ways. If God had not wanted us to use our intellect, then why provide us with it?

Bob Anderson

RE : Jace Davis

I view it like this.

We are incenssantly being molested by other people and their business\'s and corporations for profit. They try to create as wide a chasam between what it costs and what they ask for it.

We get lied to by the advertising agencies., we get fed junk food by the truck load, half the planet is going hungry while the other half is wayyyyyy over fed and full of disease; and the USA is a country run by religious nutters that demand it should be debated whether creationism should be taught in schools.

And now these scum are sticking their GM perversions onto other animals.....

So from a technical sense, these fish should be just fine to eat, but from a, \"This just isn\'t right\" perspective, meaning \"Can I do to you, what you are doing to them - and are you just going to be fine with that?\".......

Like in Australia we are having another disease spread by the Ford Motor Co., who\'s advertising is telling me that \"Remember that kid who always beat me in the tests, well I bought the new Ford Klap Trap - so who is smarter now\" theme.

I mean I can:

a) Turn the TV off / change channels / and do a number of escape routines from the mind games of that stupid corporate imposition.

b) Find better things to do with my time than be fed bullshit by advertising agencies and the idiots who employ them.

But the fish - they have no escape from the mental sickness being imposed upon them.


Case in point.

Monsanto tell us that we need GM food to feed the starving billions. They make it, lock everyone into the vertical integration / product cycle and punish those who keep their own non GM seed or persecute those who have their fields contaminated by the GM pollen......

Look at the chicken industry, the birds are forced to grow so quickly their internal organs cannot keep up and they can barely walk., they are so filled with the last of the line antibiotics - that we are all slowly being contaminated with drug resistant bacteria and there are no defenses to them left...

And the advertising agencies are all plugging Finger Lickin Kitten - with the super sized family packs, the populations are now so diseased from being fat and inactive, and everyone of these bastards is after the $ instead of the ethics.

It\'s just rapacious unethical corporate greed that drives these industries.

And screwing with the genes of these fish is one more example of this insanity.

These people in these corporations, are child molesters of the minds and bodies of other creatures.

Mr Stiffy

There is an interesting article at the Skeptic's Health Journal Club about a former Pfizer microbiologist who claims she was infected during research by a genetically modified virus and is suing Pfizer. If you are interested there is more on it here,


Facebook User

Imagine doing that to Great White shark or a whale...

Anthony Parkerwood

I didn\'t see anyone eating one in the video.

Craig Jennings

\"At this point in time we humans simply do not know enough about genetics to be able predict what the effects will be in the future. \" And we never will unless we do work like this. My mother suffers from a disease that caused her to lose a significant amount of muscle mass before it was gotten under control, and research like this is fantastic news.

\"There is a huge difference between genetic modification and selective evolution.\" No, there\'s no functional difference whatsoever. One\'s just a quicker means to the identical end result. The super-trout is no different than a chihuahua or a Saint Bernard (although arguably better-tasting).

To some of the above commenters, what a frightened world you must live in in which every single advance has some heartless CEO behind it, plotting to kill you and your family. Every medicine is really a poison, every scientific advance is a plot to kill you, every new technology is secretly about being able to spy on you, etc.

On a lighter note... the caption of that photo should be \"The result of injecting Taylor Lautner\'s DNA into a fish...\" :-)

Friends it is not a science vs. faith issue. Mortals can\'t know many things. The mention that study of dead bodies has saved the lives on millions is a great example. Yes we save lives through science yet our world population swells and more and more live in dire poverty and misery with a very real chance of a global plague killing billions. Judging whether we were right in saving people with advanced medicine is best left to God. As for this trout I am not a trout expert but I seem to see rainbow trout feeding in very shallow creeks and streams and the chances are that if released these critters would have such tiny areas deep enough to feed that they would not compete with natural rainbow trout anyway. Rainbows don\'t seem to be all that adaptive. Matter of fact huge bass make a living eating rainbows when they make it down the creeks into lakes. There is no better feed for large mouth bass. Jim Sadler

Just from the picture I thought this was going to be about river pollution causing mutations in trout.

Tom Swift
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