AgEBB-MU CAFNR Extension

Jason Jenkins
Senior Information Specialist

Dec. 18, 2006

Discover magazine ranks omega-3 pork
among top science stories of 2006

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 world-first accomplishment drew heavy national media attention and landed the project at No. 38 on Discover's year-end list.

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."

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."

Although no one has tasted the omega-3-rich pork, the possibility of creating genetically modified pork for human consumption generated public debate among scientists and late-night television hosts alike. "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" featured the research in a segment, generating a few laughs at Prather's expense.

"I didn't mind; you have to be able to laugh at yourself," he said. "I thought they did a good job of presenting the science so people could understand it. I've used the clip in my class as a teaching aid, and I know other people have used it, too."

Prather said it's very satisfying to be included on Discover's Top 100 list. "It's great to know that the public is paying attention to what we're doing."

This marks the second time that Prather's group has appeared on Discover's year-end list. The researchers also received mention in the magazine's 2002 list at No. 36 for their efforts to clone pigs whose organs could be transplanted into humans.

Photo available for following caption Photo credit: Steve Morse, MU

For the second time in five years, research from the laboratory of University of Missouri researcher Randy Prather has been honored by Discover magazine as one of the year's Top 100 science stories. Earlier this year, Prather and his collaborators announced they created pigs that produce their own omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce the risks of heart disease. The achievement ranked No. 38 on the science magazine's year-end list.

Source: Randy Prather, 573-882-7446

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