Selasa, 21 September 2010

Testing Athletes for Gene Doping

Ever since winning athletic competitions has meant a lot of money, athletes have tried to increase their odds of winning by using performance-enhancing drugs. And for just as long, sports associations have tried to catch the athletes who cheat. In most cases the athletes have stayed one jump ahead by using newer-generation harder-to-detect “designer” drugs as soon as sports associations developed tests to detect the older-generation ones.

Sports associations and many athletes thought that the next level of sophistication in athletic performance enhancement through artificial means (i.e., cheating) was going to be “gene doping” – using genetic engineering techniques to introduce foreign genes into the body that would cause the body to produce performance-enhancing hormones naturally. But the athletes may have lost the detection battle before it even began. Scientists in Germany have already developed a test that they say can conclusively prove with 100% certainty that gene doping has occurred, using a blood sample as small as 200ul. The test looks for the presence of the foreign gene itself, not the protein or hormone product produced by the gene.

It’ll take about two more years for independent laboratories to validate the test, and so it may not be ready by the 2012 Olympics. But even if it’s not, blood samples could be stored and tested later.

Score one for the sports authorities, for once.

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