Overview/Molecular Muscle Building" data-pin-do="buttonBookmark">
ATHLETES BUILD MUSCLE through intensive training. This Olympic-class rower's back displays the result of his hard work. But gene therapy could allow athletes to build more muscle, faster, and to stay strong longer without further effort. Image: RANDY HARRIS
Athletes will be going to Athens next month to take part in a tradition begun in Greece more than 2,000 years ago. As the world's finest specimens of fitness test the extreme limits of human strength, speed and agility, some of them will probably also engage in a more recent, less inspiring Olympic tradition: using performance-enhancing drugs. Despite repeated scandals, doping has become irresistible to many athletes, if only to keep pace with competitors who are doing it. Where winning is paramount, athletes will seize any opportunity to gain an extra few split seconds of speed or a small boost in endurance.
Sports authorities fear that a new form of doping will be undetectable and thus much less preventable. Treatments that regenerate muscle, increase its strength, and protect it from degradation will soon be entering human clinical trials for muscle-wasting disorders. Among these are therapies that give patients a synthetic gene, which can last for years, producing high amounts of naturally occurring muscle-building chemicals.
This article was originally published with the title Gene Doping.