Heart-healthy pork makes discovery list

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COLUMBIA, Mo. – Heart-healthier pork may not yet appear on restaurant menus, but it has been included among Discover magazine’s top 100 science stories of 2006.
This past spring, University of Missouri researcher Randy Prather announced that he and his collaborators had created pigs that produce their own omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce the risks of heart disease. The accomplishment drew heavy national media attention and landed the project at No. 38 on Discover’s year-end list.
Impact. Sarah Richardson, articles editor at Discover, said the magazine’s editorial staff searches the news each year and selects science stories that are both “surprising and important” for its list.
“We selected the omega-3 pig project for its potential public health impact,” she said.
“It’s not going to be on everyone’s dinner table tomorrow, but I think it might have broader public impact in the future.”
Next generation. In the months since the research became public, Prather said the pigs have reached sexual maturity and produced offspring that carry the gene necessary for converting unhealthy omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3s.
Once a breeding herd is established, the pigs will be used by researchers studying the impacts of omega-3s on cardiovascular, immune and reproductive health, he said.
“In addition to higher levels of omega-3s, these pigs’ triglyceride characteristics also have been altered dramatically,” Prather said.
“We’ve had a couple inquiries for research collaboration, and I think researchers will become more interested in working with these pigs after we publish a more complete description.”

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