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Scientific publications & articles
13 June

Anti-Russian campaign? Some facts about sports doping.

 

Recent news on the gigantic number of Russian athletes using doping during the Olympics in Sochi arouse a lot of disputes. But the scale of the problem raises even more emotions. Two Polish weightlifters await disciplinary action, Sharapova got the title of the greatest trickster and Lance Armstrong has been covered by a lifetime disqualification.

 

Superathletes

 

Meldonium (an agent increasing physical fitness) came on the list of banned substances early this year. It turns out, that it was widely used by many athletes and therefore, in 2015, WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) took an interest in its influence on human organism. Meldonium remains in the athlete's body for several months after use. So now Russians, Sharapova and many other state that they applied it before it was put on the list of banned substances. Anyway, leading athletes rather do not need an agent for the treatment of diseases of the cardiovascular system... Meldonium is a repeat of EPO history (erythropoietin, increases physical performance) very well documented in the movie "The program" about Armstrong.

 

Doping is dead, long live the doping!

 

Despite lengthy research on the detection of specific forms of doping, Anti-Doping Agencies finally manage to establish a reliable method. However, as a consequence, the medals are taken away even a few years after the sports competitions. A pity, because the best time of showing up a swindler would be, when he’s standing on the podium. All in all, justice is done. So what is the biggest threat? Gene therapy and its use in sport gives WADA’s employees sleepless nights. Gene doping is nothing more than the previous one but with a small exception - practically undetectable.

 

Gene doping, how it works?

 

More than 1,000 clinical trials confirmed the efficacy of gene therapy. Modification may occur either in vivo or ex vivo. In vivo means that gene is delivered directly to the athlete's body (blood, tissues, organs). Ex vivo is to take athlete’s cell first and then, after genetic modification, re-transfer the cell to his body. This can be done on a carrier, e.g. viruses or by physical methods, eg. electroporation.

 

In a nutshell:

 

Let’s take the gene responsible, for example, for the increased production of red blood cells (EPO). It’s being “pasted” into genetic material of the virus-carrier and then transferred into the body of the athlete. The virus penetrates the cell membrane and the genetic information goes directly to the nucleus. There takes place the expression of a gene, meaning protein production. Consequently, the body begins to produce much more red blood cells, which translates into increased efficiency of the organism.

Besides a gene encoding erythropoietin, it is possible to transfer e.g.:

 

Gene (Protein)

 

Effect

 

Insulin-like growth factor

significant increase in muscle mass, faster muscle regeneration

 

Growth hormone

stimulation of muscle growth and of carbohydrates, fats and proteins metabolism

 

Myostatin

by "disabling" its function increased strength and muscle mass

 

Alpha-actinin 3 (ACTN3)

depending on the purpose enhances endurance or strength

 

Endorphins

changed pain perception, the impact on the psychological aspect of athletes

 

 

 

In gene doping the most important is one thing - despite external interference and modification of genetic material, produced proteins are almost indistinguishable from those natural. Therefore specialists to identify whether it is natural or not, should know the exact site of the injection, perform a full proteins analysis (protein profiling) and identify a carrier. Finally, should make muscle tissue biopsy which, in the case of athletes, is absolutely not an option.

 

At the end - the positives

 

Genetics has long been in the service of athletes - by classical DNA test determines the innate athletic predispositions and susceptibility to injuries. Training adjustments based on the Sport DNA test results shorten the path to victory.

And gene doping? Idea was to create an Athlete Biological Passport and identify all biological parameters as well as monitoring athlete’s progress. Although it seems to be quite tedious, it may be an interesting attempt to discredit the artificial superathletes.

 

Athletes are willing to risk their own health to achieve success . And what is your opinion about gene doping?

 

Check your natural sport predisposition !

 

Sport DNA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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