Keeping ‘meat on the table’ for an expanding human population – with minimal environmental footprints – is a challenge. One option is to enhance muscle growth efficiency, since meat is mostly from muscle. A new project, Improving Animal Muscle Growth for Efficient Meat Production, from the Multistate Research Fund of the USDA-NIFA is bringing together researchers from 25 Agricultural Experiment Stations, who are sharing data and samples to better understand the molecular and cellular processes, and environmental factors, that control or influence animal muscle growth and function. The goal is to improve productivity and the overall quality of meat. The findings may also lead to ameliorating muscle disorders in humans and animals. In the Dept. of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences, Yong-Soo Kim, Rajesh Jha, and Birendra Mishra are studying myostatin, a growth factor that negatively affects muscle growth in animals. Conversely, blocking myostatin increases muscle mass.
Previously, Yong-Soo’s lab showed that in chickens, post-hatch muscle growth can be increased by the in-ovo suppression of myostatin activity (administering anti-myostatin to the egg). But in the poultry industry, administering anti-myostatin antibodies to individual eggs has been a barrier to adopting the technology for commercial production. Thus, for this project, the HNFAS team is hoping to find an easier way of in-ovo suppression of myostatin.
“We hypothesize that vaccination of broiler hens against myostatin will produce anti-myostatin antibodies in then hens, resulting in a transfer of anti-myostatin antibodies into their fertilized eggs, with a consequent improvement of skeletal muscle growth of post-hatch chicks,” says Yong-Soo. “The key benefits of this strategy are 1) no need to inject antibodies into eggs, 2) no hatching failure caused by such injections, and 3) no need for antibody production and purification, potentially allowing for broad and easier application of the technology in chicken production.”
He adds, “If the hypothesis works, the findings of the study will have a chance to enhance the production efficiency of chicken, with more meat. We’re excited to pursue research that will potentially benefit the poultry meat industry and educate our students in agricultural biotechnology.”