The Vancouver Olympics begin February 12th. And scientists are on high alert. Not just for well-known ways to gain an advantage, like steroids or blood doping. The researchers are also worried about what’s called genetic doping. It’s the latest in elite athletic cheating.
Researchers writing in the journal Science point to a few different types of gene therapy that could get hijacked for athletics instead of medical uses, like the treatment of obesity, diabetes or muscle disease. For example, genes for insulin-like growth factor could enhance muscle mass. And molecules that regulate the expression of genes may make athletes more energy efficient, or help create more slow-twitch muscle fibers.
It’s known that in the past few years, a coach in Germany and a lab in China have tried to get these kinds of therapies into the hands of competitors. So the scientific community wants to get ahead of this by figuring out what molecular signatures might be left in cheaters’ bodies after genetic doping.
The researchers do point out that these treatments have so far only been able to produce “faster or stronger mice.” But that doesn’t mean somebody getting an Olympic medal isn’t a rat.
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]