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Weighing up the secrets of African elephant body fat
Date:7/3/2014

A research team from The University of Nottingham has carried out the first molecular characterisation of the African elephant's adipose tissue body fat. This new information will form the basis of future studies aimed at securing the health and future survival of captive elephants.

The population of captive elephants, both Asian and African, in Europe and North America is not self-sustaining, largely due to poor fertility, resulting in a fewer baby elephants being born. It is acknowledged that if a solution for these reproductive difficulties cannot be found quickly, captive elephants will face demographic extinction in North American zoos within the next 50 years.

This new study, carried out by a team of scientists at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, will form the building blocks for later studies that will help scientists start to identify important dietary components for health and reproduction in African elephants to enable better management of this species in captivity and in the wild.

The research, Molecular Characterization of Adipose Tissue in the African Elephant, led by Dr Lisa Yon, and in equal part by her colleagues Dr Nigel Mongan, Dr Richard Emes and Dr Alison Mostyn, has been published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

Using expertise in molecular biology and bioinformatics at the Nottingham vet school and with access to unique samples from the African elephant researchers were able to explore some important basic biological questions to achieve a better understanding of elephants.

Leptin a hormone made by fat cells to regulate the amount of fat stored in the body is a crucial molecular link between nutritional status, amount of adipose tissue and fertility in many species. This research has shown that it has a similar function in the African elephant.

Dr Yon said: "This research provides important information on the structure and function of adipose tissue in
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Contact: Lindsay Brooke
lindsay.brooke@nottingham.ac.uk
44-011-595-15751
University of Nottingham
Source:Eurekalert

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