- By Alec Freudenstein

soccer players like the ones shown in this picture probably excel at the sport because they have an a-actinin-3 deficiency, which allows them to use their energy more efficiently

Soccer practice was brutal. The hot summer heat made every drill twice as hard as usual. Everybody was a little bit off of their game, however I was particularly sluggish. The coaches called for a water break after finally noticing that our dehydration was significantly affecting our performance. I was dragging my feet on the way to the water cooler when one of my coaches, Brett, pulled me aside from the rest of the players. “What’s wrong Alec?” Brett asked, “You look really off today.” “Yeah,” I replied, “this heat is killing me, plus, I’m not a soccer player.” It was true, I was a basketball player, and soccer was just not my sport. I am fast at times, but I get winded just minutes after a soccer game starts. I only joined the team because Coach Brett begged me. We were short of the minimum amount of players required and I was the only boy left in camp between the ages of thirteen and fifteen with some athletic ability who was available. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a soccer player,” Coach Brett said, “If you put forth your very best effort, you will ALWAYS be the most fit and best soccer player on the field.” Well, not exactly. After further research, I found out that Coach Brett was wrong, athletic ability was not one hundred percent earned with hard work. Rather, genetics play an essential role in modern human athletic ability as well as hard work. To be more specific, the ACTN3 gene and its variation in populations throughout the world provide information about a fascinating link between the survival of ancient humans and the athletic ability of modern man.

The human ACTN3 gene encodes a protein known as a-actinin-3 , which helps the support system in fast-twitching skeletal muscle fibers. In 1999, scientists revealed that the a-actinin-3 protein was absent in more than one billion people worldwide. These one billion people with an a-actinin-3 deficiency were able to compensate by producing a similar protein known as a-actinin-2. There is an evolutionary “trade off” by possessing or not possessing the ACTN3 gene. To aquire information and research about this evolutionary "trade off", I contacted Kathryn North, who currently works for the Institute for Neuromuscular Research and asked her if she could help me. Ms. North was very generous and sent me documents of studies that she was involved in. In one of the studies, genetically engineered mice were used to simulate the effect of ACTN3 deficiency in humans. Observations that were obtained from this study include information about a-actinin-3’s role in the regulation of skeletal muscle’s metabolismas well as it's mass and fiber size. Ms. North and the rest of the scientists who conducted this study also discovered something remarkable. The mice that were lacking the a-actinin-3 protein used their energy more efficiently because the muscle fibers of those mice had the metabolic and contractile properties of slow oxidative fibers. Therefore, the mice with an a-actinin-3 deficiency were able to outlast the other mice that "possessed" the a-actinin-3 in endurance activities. From this experiment, these scientists concluded that having an a-actinin-3 deficiency is associated with a more efficient aerobic muscle metabolism, which strongly favors endurance activities such as running a marathon or long distance swimming races.

However, those mice that possessed the a-actinin-3 protein had a different advantage that might be more effective in a different environment. A-actinin-3 is specifically found in fast-twitch myofibers that are responsible for generating forces at a high velocity. Since these mice possessed the a-actinin-3 protein, they were able to generate the rapid contractions needed to excel in sprinting . It all depends on which environment you are in that determines whether having or not having the a-actinin-3 protein works to your advantage.

Given this information, I hypothesize that I am a person who has the ACTN3 gene. A person like Coach Brett on the other hand probably possesses the a-actinin-2 protein because of his inability to excel in short distance sprinting activities and excel in long distance endurance activities. So yes, Coach Brett, you can work hard to become the best athlete you can be in a particular sport. However, the types of sports that you excel at are indeed genetically influenced. So I may not be a soccer player Coach Brett, but no matter how hard you try, you’re never going to beat me at basketball, that’s MY sport.

people who excel at short distance sprint sports like basketball probably possess the a-actinin-3 protein because the a-actinin-3 protein allows your fast twitch skeletal muscle fibers to generate more force

1) How do you expect the population of people who possess the a-actinin-3 to change in the future based on the current state of man?
2) Why do you think humans first developed an a-actinin-3 deficiency? Do you think evolution play and natural selection played a role, why or why not? Provide evidence based on the time period when some humans first developed an a-actinin-3 deficiency (300 million years ago).

Joe- Great post Alec. Your pictures link back to Flickr, and your information and links are great. Just remember, read over your post a few times, becuase I don't want you to lose points over spelling and grammatical errors. If you can (it's a suggestion), put a video on here of your topic, just to catch the reader's attention. Overall, nice job!

Student Expectations
How Will I Meet This Expectation?
How Did I Meet This Expectation?
Demonstrate ability to evaluate sources of biology information on the internet
- I only chose souces that I deemed credible after reading the "about us" section on that page's website. If the people who were on the staff of that website are professionals in the paticular field am looking for (sports science), I will accept the information that the website persented as true.
- I sould contact a professional in sports sciene through email and ask him/her to send me information about my subject.
- I only chose biology sites who appeared credible after reading their about page. I am conifdent that the information on the websites that I used are true, giving me a credible and reliable article.
- I contacted Kathryn North, a professional in sports science. Ms. North was very kind by sending me recent sudies and news articles on my topic through e-mail.
- I also evaluated 3 other websites for my classmates to assure them that the site that they are doing research on is authentic
Demonstrate an ability to read and understand current biology news
- I should contant a person who is well informed on biology new and ask them to e-mail me current biology news. Then, I will read and try to understand the article to the best of my ability and if there is something I can't understad some of the information, then I should ask Ms. Baker or someone else to carify the reading so that I can undrstand it.
- I indeed contacted a science correspondant (Kathryn North) and Ms. North sent me documents that are related to my topic. I had difficulty understanding a few parts in the articles that Ms. North send me, so I asked Ms. Baker to help me and put it into terms that were easier to understand.
Demonstrate proper use of online resources
- I will use the Creative Commons liscense when I am uploading pictures on to my article
- I will only hyperling reliable sources that are related to my topic
- I used the Creative commons liscense when I am writing my aritcle
- I only used reliable sources that were approved by my classmates that were related to my topic
Publish work that is available for peer-review
- Make sure that the article that I post is a blog post
- I wrote my article and the article that I am posting is able to be peer reviewed because I am posting it on a blog.
Discuss published work with a practicing biologist in that particular field
- I should contact Katryn North because she is a professional in sports science and can provide information that can make my article more detailed.
- I contacted Ms. North through e-mail and she e-mailed me back in a couple of days and attacted brand new research documents that relate to my article. It was very helpful and significantly improved the quality of my article.
Provide constructive peer-review to classmates
- I should find a partner who wants to read and review my paper. Then, I will add my comments and thoughts to his or her page with suggestions that will help my partner's article the best that it can be.
- I found a partner (Joseph) and he reviewed my article and provided helpful suggestions. I applied his suggestions to my article. As a result,my article has a better flow to it and it is more gramatically efficient. I as well provided helpful suggestions to Joseph's article that will improve the quality of his writing.
Discuss in-class assignments
- Review all of the notes that I took throughout this semester in biology until I come across a section that applies to my article
- Evolution and natural selection were huge components of out first semester in biology. Evolution and natural seletion apply to my project because they are the reasons why humans first developed an a-actinin-3 deficiency.
Apply creativity to work
- Think creatively
- My creativeness really showed in this project. Besides giving my article a title that catches the attention of viewers, I also applied personal experiences in my article to catch the attention of viewers and give them the sense that I am writing about something that applies to the real world.

I love the Indianapolis Colts and I can't wait for the Colts to beat the Saints.