Navigation Links
Could Gene Doping Be Part of Future Olympics?

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) -- Despite all the training, sweat, dedication and sacrifice that goes into becoming an Olympic competitor, these elite athletes also tend to have an advantage that average sports lovers lack: superior DNA. Just like eye color or a keen intellect, a constellation of the "right" genes can grace certain athletes with world-class speed, strength and endurance.

But with the advent of gene therapy -- technology on the cusp of helping treat grave illnesses -- are the days of "natural selection" of super-athletes coming to an end?

Genetics and athletics experts fear that the 2012 Olympic Games, opening Friday in London, may be the last without competitors secretly hinging their gold medal hopes on "gene doping" -- modifying their DNA to make themselves bigger, stronger or faster -- and that such gene manipulation may one day match the use of illicit performance-enhancing substances.

"Gene doping has been sort of smoldering as a theoretical possibility for at least two or three sets of Olympic Games," said Dr. Ted Friedmann, chair of the genetics panel of the World Anti-Doping Agency. "If you ask me how many more years it'll be before it's done, well, I'd say a very long time. But how many more years before some idiot does something stupid? That could be tomorrow," he added.

"The technology is ripe for abuse by badly trained people," explained Friedmann, also director of the Center for Molecular Genetics at the University of California, San Diego. "The chance of effectiveness if done by current methods is almost nil."

According to an article published July 19 in the journal Nature, more than 200 gene variants have been associated with athletic prowess, including a variant of the ACE gene linked to endurance and an alternative copy of the ACTN3 gene -- dubbed the "speed gene" and found in nearly every male Olympic sprinter ever tested.

While therapeutic gene therapy -- injecting foreign DNA into muscle or bone to change a person's genetic makeup, creating proteins that infiltrate tissue or blood -- still carries too many side effects be widely used, cases already exist of doping where the protein (rather than the gene that encodes it) is taken to improve performance, said Dr. Kathryn North, an Australian researcher whose 2010 study on the ACTN3 gene helped establish its link to sprinters and power athletes.

Examples include the manipulation of the EPO gene, which increases hemoglobin levels, boosting blood's oxygen-carrying capabilities, she said. Finnish athlete Eero Mantyranta, the winner of seven Olympic cross-country skiing medals, naturally carries such a mutation, elevating his oxygen-carrying capacity by 25 percent to 50 percent, according to the Nature article.

Tests to root out gene-doping are still being developed and aren't ready for prime time, but apparently these rogue proteins can already be detected.

"Gene-doping is not yet a reality, but the technology to detect doping will evolve along with the techniques to misuse the new genetic technologies," said North, head of the Institute for Neuroscience and Muscle Research at the Children's Hospital at Westmead in Australia.

Indeed, an air of inevitability about gene-doping permeates, though Olympics officials will concentrate for the moment on the 4,500 tests already available for banned substances in their efforts to keep the 2012 Games clean.

Robert Kersey, director of the Athletic Training Education Program at California State University in Fullerton, predicted that the pressure to win -- twinned with monetary pressure from corporate sponsors -- will combine to make gene-doping irresistible to some world-class athletes.

"Humans are greedy and if there's money to be made, people are willing to take those risks," said Kersey, also a professor of kinesiology. "Everyone involved has the potential to make money or fame or fortune out of it . . . you're never going to convince every person who wants to win a gold medal that they shouldn't bend the rules if they feel they have a real chance of winning."

But North and Friedmann pointed out that merely having a favorable gene -- whether for athleticism or any other trait -- doesn't guarantee that gene will express itself in the desired way. A specific combination of many gene variants, in addition to training, environment and attitude, "really make up the complex phenotype that is the elite athlete," North said.

Added Friedmann: "Genes work in an enormously complicated set of interactions, and no gene works by itself. If you have the gene for speed or endurance, all the other genes you carry that [help] or work against that will affect how that gene expresses itself."

More information

The U.S. Department of Energy's Genome Program offers more about gene therapy.

SOURCES: Robert D. Kersey, Ph.D., professor, kinesiology, and director, Athletic Training Education Program, California State University, Fullerton; Kathryn North, M.D., head, Institute for Neuroscience and Muscle Research, Children's Hospital at Westmead, Australia; Ted Friedmann, M.D., director, Center for Molecular Genetics, University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, and chair, genetics panel, World Anti-Doping Agency, Montreal; July 19, 2012, Nature

Copyright©2012 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Internists say physician-led quality initiatives could be solution to Medicare payment problems
2. Adding More Neurosurgeons Could Cut Traffic Deaths: Study
3. Greater availability of neurosurgeons could reduce risk of death from motor vehicle accidents
4. ESC says 50 percent of CVD deaths in Europe could be avoided with proper regulation
5. Fine tuning cardiac ablation could lead to quicker results for patients with arrhythmias
6. Many Medicaid Patients Skip Drugs That Could Prevent Heart Trouble
7. A good nights sleep could keep you out of a nursing home
8. Mouse With Human-Like Immune System Could Advance AIDS Research
9. Revised geographic adjustments could improve accuracy of Medicare payments, will not solve access, quality problems
10. Increase in RDA for vitamin C could help reduce heart disease, stroke, cancer
11. Could a larger waistline be a result of too much TV as a child?
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Could Gene Doping Be Part of Future Olympics?
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... 27, 2015 , ... Lizzie’s Lice Pickers just announced a special promotion that ... of their purchase of lice treatment product. In addition, customers will receive a complimentary ... spokesperson. “Finding lice is a sure way to ruin the holidays, so we encourage ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 , ... ProSidebar: ... in Final Cut Pro X. With ProSidebar: Fasion, video editors can easily add ... ProSidebar as a minimalist title opener. Utilize presets featuring self-animating drop zones, lines, ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... 2015 , ... Consistent with the Radiology Business Management ... Radiology Marketing Programs meeting will showcase some of the best 2015 radiology ... Palace in Las Vegas with a pre-conference session on a collaborative approach for ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 , ... A simply ... Jones, is an interesting show that delves into an array of issues that are ... that could benefit from open dialogue, this show is changing the subjects consumers focus ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... innovative online platform for mental health and wellness consultation, has collaborated with a ... will bridge the knowledge gap experienced by parents and bring advice from parenting ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/29/2015)... -- National Decision Support Company (NDSC) continues to experience ... statewide implementations. As a result, ordering providers now ... than 1 million times per month—all from within ... real-time feedback on the most appropriate imaging test ... at over 100 healthcare systems nationally, representing over ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... Une nouvelle approche consistant ... contre le cancer avancé.    --> ... au traitement photodynamique au Bremachlorin contre le cancer ... nouvelle approche consistant à combiner l,immunothérapie au traitement ...    Clinical Cancer Research . ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... 27, 2015 --> ... go online. The potential to save costs, improve treatment ... far from fully exploited as yet. Here, particular emphasis ... either via mobile tablet or directly at the patients, ... ) -->      (Photo: ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: