Some Bird Species Found to Have Body Fat Hormone

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birdSome species of birds have long been a mystery in their behaviors. Thanks to a discovery made by University of Akron researchers, there is now believed to be an explanation for how sea birds fly over 80,000 miles during their migration from the North Pole to the South Pole, and the Emperor penguin is able to incubate eggs for months without eating, in spite of the conditions in the Antarctic winter.

Until now, the hormone responsible for storing body fat, leptin, has been absent in birds. The scientists discovered the elusive hormone and published their findings in the science journal, PLOS ONE, titled “Discovery of the Elusive Leptin in Birds: Identification of Several ‘Missing Links’ in the Evolution of Leptin and its Receptor.” In the report, the researchers reveal the findings in the peregrine falcon, mallard duck and zebra finch.

Professor of Biology, R. Joel Duff from the University of Akron discovered the presence of leptin when he compared ancient fish and reptile leptins to predict the bird sequence. According to a science article which describes the study in Science Daily news, Duff and his undergraduate students Cameron Schmidt and Donald Gasper identified the sequence in more than one bird genome, showing that the genomic region where leptin was found resembles that in other vertebrates. The study was initiated by Jeremy Prokop, a former University of Akron Integrated Bioscience doctoral student who constructed the computer models of the 3-D structure of the bird leptin before performing bench experiments that showed bird leptin has the ability to bind to a bird leptin receptor.

The discovery of leptin in birds is a crucial one because of the demand for faster growing of chickens in the poultry industry. While the leptin has not yet been discovered in chickens, this study sets the stage for further related research.

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