Gene doping – is it possible to create the perfect athlete?

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Gene doping – is it possible to create the perfect athlete?

Various environmental and genetic factors, among others, influence athletic performance. Recently, there has been a lot of evidence to suggest that there are genes associated with athletic performance. Here is some of the most important information on this topic.

Sports genes

Currently, about 200 genetic polymorphisms have been identified that may be closely related to exercise. During research, more than 20 of these have been compared to the performance of top athletes. The genes that can be linked to speed, power and endurance in professional athletes are ACTN3 and ACE.

ACTN3 gene

The ACTN3 gene mentioned above is responsible for coding for the structure of the sarcomere protein, which is found only in type II muscle fibers that are responsible for high-velocity explosive movements and high-powered activity. The Allel R gene is most desired by individuals training in strength sports. Genotype XX is directly associated with less muscle strength and less ability to sprint effectively.

ACE gene

The ACE gene is responsible for encoding the angiotensin-converting enzyme. The I / D ACE polymorphism was the first genetic polymorphism of its kind to be linked to athletic performance. The mentioned gene differentiates ACE activity regulating blood pressure. Consequently, it plays a key role when it comes to improving cardiovascular and respiratory performance. The Allel D gene is associated with performance related to the need for power and strength generation, while Allel I is associated with performance in endurance sports and low serum and tissue ACE activity. The latter leads to an increase in muscle performance, such as we encounter among climbers, rowers, marathoners or long-distance swimmers.

Genetic doping – what is it?

Genetic doping appeared in 2004 on the list of the World Anti-Doping Agency. It was assigned to the category that is the non-therapeutic use of genes or cells that have the ability to enhance athletic performance. It is important to realize that gene doping not only improves performance much better than pharmacological doping. What sets it apart is that it is almost impossible to detect with current technologies.

It is worth mentioning here the hormone EPO, which is secreted largely by the kidneys. It contributes to the increase of erythropoiesis of the body, improving the ability of the blood to transport the gene, thus increasing the endurance of professional athletes. IGF-1 gene insertion or myostatin gene deletion can lead to increased muscle mass and strength. Leptin, on the other hand, is a hormone that induces a feeling of satiety and which can be used to reduce hunger and accelerate weight loss.

Genetic manipulation

Current research in the field of gene doping is currently at the experimental stage. It can prove dangerous when we have knowledge about the risk factors. Increased levels of EPO can lead to increased blood viscosity and risk of stroke. A simple insertion of the EPO gene cannot satisfy the physiological need for its deletion, should the need arise.

With the addition of the IGF-1 gene or deletion of the myostatin gene, we may see a disproportionate increase in muscle strength, which significantly increases the likelihood of tendon rupture. The use of viral vectors for gene insertion can also contribute to insertional mutagenesis. The consequence of this is an increased risk of uncontrolled cell growth due to overexpression of cytokines and growth factors and poor regulation, which in turn leads to the development of malignancies.

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