Low Oxygen Levels Cause Cell Death Leading to Wooden Breast in Chickens

Greg Howard
7th June, 2024

Low Oxygen Levels Cause Cell Death Leading to Wooden Breast in Chickens

Image Source: Lilliana Grace (photographer)

Key Findings

  • The study was conducted by researchers from Nanjing Agricultural University on broiler chickens with Wooden Breast (WB) myopathy
  • WB-affected muscles showed significant signs of hypoxia, including reduced oxygen levels and increased expression of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs)
  • There was increased programmed cell death (PCD) activity in WB-affected muscles, indicated by elevated levels of apoptotic markers like caspases and DNA fragmentation
Wooden breast (WB) myopathy is a widespread issue affecting commercial broiler chickens, causing significant economic losses and raising animal welfare concerns. This condition is characterized by hardened, pale, and outbulging breast muscles, which negatively impact meat quality and consumer satisfaction[1]. Researchers from Nanjing Agricultural University have conducted a study to investigate the potential role of hypoxia-mediated programmed cell death (PCD) in the formation of WB myopathy. Previous studies have identified various histological and macroscopic characteristics of WB myopathy. For instance, affected muscles often show polyphasic myodegeneration, fibrosis, and perivenular lymphocyte accumulation[2]. Another study highlighted a high incidence of WB in a Chinese broiler processing plant, where WB fillets were heavier and thicker than normal fillets and exhibited impaired textural properties and sensory traits[3]. Additionally, the rapid growth rates of broilers and the resulting muscle hypertrophy have been linked to a compromised blood supply, leading to oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction[4]. The current study by Nanjing Agricultural University aims to delve deeper into the mechanisms underlying WB myopathy, specifically focusing on hypoxia-mediated programmed cell death (PCD). Hypoxia refers to a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues, which can lead to cellular damage and death. Programmed cell death (PCD) is a regulated process by which cells undergo self-destruction in response to specific signals. The researchers hypothesized that hypoxia-induced PCD might play a crucial role in the development of WB myopathy. To test this hypothesis, the researchers conducted a series of experiments on broiler chickens exhibiting WB myopathy. They collected samples of the pectoralis major (PM) muscle and performed histological examinations to assess the extent of muscle damage. They also measured markers of hypoxia and PCD to determine their involvement in the myopathy. The results of the study revealed a strong association between hypoxia and PCD in the affected muscles. The PM muscles of broilers with WB myopathy showed significant signs of hypoxia, including reduced oxygen levels and increased expression of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs). Furthermore, there was evidence of increased PCD activity, as indicated by elevated levels of apoptotic markers, such as caspases and DNA fragmentation. These findings suggest that hypoxia-mediated PCD is a key factor in the development of WB myopathy. The compromised blood supply to the rapidly growing breast muscles likely leads to hypoxia, which in turn triggers PCD and results in muscle degeneration and fibrosis. This aligns with previous observations of oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction in WB-affected muscles[4]. The study provides valuable insights into the pathological mechanisms of WB myopathy and highlights the importance of addressing hypoxia to mitigate the condition. By understanding the role of hypoxia-mediated PCD, researchers and poultry producers can develop targeted strategies to prevent or reduce the severity of WB myopathy. Potential approaches may include optimizing the growth rates of broilers, improving blood supply to the muscles, and exploring dietary interventions to enhance oxygen delivery and reduce oxidative stress. In conclusion, the study from Nanjing Agricultural University advances our understanding of WB myopathy by identifying hypoxia-mediated programmed cell death as a critical factor in its formation. This research builds on previous findings and offers new avenues for mitigating the adverse effects of WB myopathy on poultry production and meat quality[2][3][4].

HealthBiochemAnimal Science


Main Study

1) Hypoxia-mediated programmed cell death is involved in the formation of wooden breast in broilers

Published 6th June, 2024


Related Studies

2) Myodegeneration with fibrosis and regeneration in the pectoralis major muscle of broilers.


3) Characteristics and incidence of broiler chicken wooden breast meat under commercial conditions in China.


4) Wooden-Breast, White Striping, and Spaghetti Meat: Causes, Consequences and Consumer Perception of Emerging Broiler Meat Abnormalities.


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