The Loh Down On Science

Is the urge to exercise genetic?

How much rats ran in their wheels during a 6-day period. White: rats who have a low urge to exercise; black: rats who have a high urge to exercise. Image courtesy of Roberts et al., Am J of Physiol, 2013

Has science identified the Slacker gene?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Researchers at the University of Missouri say laziness may be genetic.

Frank Booth is a professor at the university’s vet school.  He put lab rats in cages and watched their activity.  Specifically, how much each voluntarily ran on its exercise wheel.

He singled out the most gung-ho wheel runners and bred them to each other.  He also singled out the least energetic and bred them.

He bred the offspring of the top runners to each other.  Ditto for the slackers.  He kept breeding both types, for ten generations.  By then the runner rats were ten times more exercise prone than the couch potatoes.

Finally, he collected tissue samples from the last generation.  He extracted RNA from each sample and ran genetic tests to compare the samples’ genes.

Result?  Thirty-six genes showed notable differences in the two rat types.

Further genetic analysis may explain why some humans prefer exercise more than others.

I prefer exercise, as long as it's done by rats ... but that’s just me.

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Thursday, from 2-3 p.m. on the LDOS blog: Sandra chats with author Deborah Fallows about her book Dreaming in Chinese.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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