Originally posted by: Celliach on 6/1/2006 9:11:19 AM
email thisprint thisreprint or license this
Meet Super Trout
Researchers at MU are building fish that are lean, mean fighting machines â€” thanks to a little boost from creatine
By BRENT FRAZEE
The Kansas City Star
Imagine going to your favorite trout stream and being able to tangle with a â€œsuper fishâ€ â€” a muscle-bound rainbow that has amazing strength and endurance.
Now imagine how that fish got that way â€” by taking creatine, the same performance-enhancing supplement Mark McGwire used on the way to breaking baseballâ€™s then-single-season home-run record in 1998. A far-fetched scenario, you say? Not in the eyes of researchers at the University of Missouri.
For more than a year, MU professors have been experimenting with feeding rainbow trout a diet supplemented with 5 percent creatine, which is used by athletes to increase muscle mass and endurance and recover more quickly from injuries.
The results have been striking. Preliminary findings indicated that some of the trout taking the creatine â€” a naturally occurring amino acid, not a steroid or a hormone â€” showed a five-fold increase in their stamina, measured by the length of time they were able to swim against a controlled current.
The day when that might translate to better fishing is still a long way off. The federal government does not approve creatine in fish that are to be consumed by humans, though the substance is legally sold over the counter as a supplement.
But researchers havenâ€™t ruled out the possibility that the substance â€” if proved safe, effective and economically feasible â€” might one day change the face of fishing for some species.
â€œThere would be a lot of marketability for harder-fighting fish,â€ said Rob Hayward, a fisheries professor at MU who is involved in the study. â€œFishermen probably would pay a premium for a chance of catching fish that fought longer and harder.
â€œFee-fishing operations could market that they had harder-fighting fish, and they could gain some business.â€
Alicia Amyx, part of the family that has operated the Rainbow Trout Ranch fee-fishing operation near Rockbridge, Mo., since 1954, agreed that it could present new possibilities.
â€œIâ€™m sure it would be attractive to some of our fishermen, having harder-fighting trout,â€ she said. â€œTrout 2 pounds and up fight hard enough. We hear a lot of stories about the one that got away. To have a trout that fought even harder could be exciting.
â€œBut before we even considered using something like creatine, we would have to make sure it was safe (to consume) on a long-term basis. Weâ€™re careful that our fish are natural and of high quality. We wouldnâ€™t want to jeopardize that in any way.â€
But the gains wouldnâ€™t necessarily be confined to freshwater fish. The benefits of creatine also could extend to saltwater fish, Hayward said.
â€œThe big thing now is open-ocean aquaculture, in which fish are raised in large cages as far as 200 miles off shore,â€ Hayward said. â€œBy supplementing the diet of those fish with creatine, they might grow stronger and be able to withstand stronger currents.â€
Hayward emphasizes that the study is still in its preliminary stages. But early returns have opened some eyes.
Creatine was first used by MU researchers in research with pigs to see whether it could improve the quality of pork.
Hayward and animal-sciences professor Eric Berg later decided to test the substance to see whether it could improve muscle growth in fish.
To test the fishâ€™s swimming stamina, they used a Plexiglas swim tube in which the current could be regulated.
â€œIn effect, itâ€™s like a treadmill,â€ Hayward said. â€œWe can adjust the flow rate and see how the fish react.â€
Hayward and Berg, aided by undergraduate researchers Amber Wiewel and Kyle Winders, also tested creatineâ€™s effects on bluegills, but the results were not profound.
â€œBluegills are relatively sedentary and are reluctant to swim, so differences werenâ€™t pronounced,â€ Hayward said.
But the researchers found good subjects in the trout, which are current-oriented fish. Now they are thinking of testing other species, including the closely related salmon.
â€œWe canâ€™t say if this will ever have any application to fishing or aquaculture,â€ Hayward said. â€œWe are just providing the science.
â€œBut it does provide some interesting possibilities.â€