The double-muscle phenomenon
D. Caroline Coile, Ph.D., photo courtesy of Jen Jensen
Jen Jensen is not a scientist, although she has a science background. She's not a breeder, but she is the doting owner of four Whippets. She's not a philanthropist, although her contributions to her breed are invaluable. At face value, those contrubitions involve spearheading a genetic investigation. More importantly, her efforts show taht one person can make a difference.
Jensen got her first Whippet in 1998, but it was a chance encounter with somebody else's Whippet in 1999 that piqued her curiosity. The Whippet she saw had bulging muscles like a body builder, not like the Whippet's typical svelte sprinter build. She didn't think much more about it until a few years later, when she noticed several more such dogs.
Soon after, Jensen read an article about a German boy who was born with a mutation apparently causing him to be excessively muscled. The article said the boy's parents both exhibited athletic prowess. Jensen was involved in amateur Whippet racing, so the heavily muscled Whippets she'd encountered tended to be from racing lines and from successful, athletic parents.
In the genes
The German boy had a mutation that was also seen in several other species, including cattle, sheep and mice, in which so=called double-muscling results from mutations in the gene regulation myostatin production. The myostatin protein affects the amount and composition of muscle fibers; the mutant version allows one or both to develop beyond normal levels. Could the bulky muscles of these Whippets be caused by a similar mutation?
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