Belgian Blues are among the most heavily bred cattle in the world. Known; not only for their bountiful lean meat, but also their jaw dropping muscular physique.
This substantial muscle growth is caused by a natural mutation to the Belgian Blues pair of myostatin genes which causes the effect scientists have termed as, double muscling. Myostatin is a protein which limits skeletal muscle growth. The mutation of the Belgian Blues myostatin genes, render the growth factor defective, allowing them to grow significantly larger muscles. In Belgium, this characteristic is reinforced through selective breeding to produce even larger Belgian Blues. For over 100 years, only the highest muscle mass cows and bulls are allowed to mate. To ensure that the effective gene is passed on, scientists collect the semen produced by the bulls and hand pick (not really) the most active sperm to pass on the gene. The cows are then artificially inseminated.
However, Belgian Blues are not the only species that possess this mutation. Although very rarely, naturally defective myostatin genes are also known to be held in the Piedmontese cattle, dogs and also humans; as found in two young boys from Germany and the United States. Scientists have also been able to produce a strain of mice carrying the mutation.
All species with a deficiency of myostatin exhibit a significant increase in muscle mass and strength.
Scientists believe the discovery of the advantages mysotatin deficiency holds, could eventually lead to a treatment for people with muscular dystrophy and other muscle eradicating diseases.
Cool pictures and a video clip: