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Scientific publications & articles
15 March

Olympian genes

Olympic athletes run faster, jump higher and lift more than a "normal" human. Of course this is the result of incredibly hard work and training. Many however have a feature for which they didn’t have to work hard -  appropriate genes.


Almost every Olympian participating in strength specific sports have 577R allele - ACTN3 gene variant also known as "gene of strength." A total of 200 genes variants have already been identified as affecting sport predispositions. Variant "I" of the ACE gene associated with increased endurance has 94% of the population of Sherpas living in the valley of Kathmandu in Nepal. The probability to reach by Sherpas the eight-thousander summit is significantly higher than by representatives of other ethnic groups in which the frequency of this ACE variant ranges between 45-70%. A study conducted on a group of British runners indicate that a "I" variant have those who race on the longest distance. Finnish skier Eero Mäntyranta had EPOR gene mutation which resulted in the overproduction of red blood cells, increasing aerobic capacity of the organism by 25-50%. He won 7 Olympic medals.

According to the authors of the article "Genetically enhanced Olympics are coming" which appeared in Nature,  current knowledge of genes that determine sport predispositions raises a totally new discussion. The authors suggest that future Olympic Games have three possible scenarios:

  1. Will be held on the current basis, where the victorious are those who are endowed with a larger subset of genetic predisposition
  2. Will be divided on the athletes who have genetic predispositions and those who don’t
  3. For those who don’t - gene therapy will be provided, which allows to equate their chances with athletes who have sport genes. This practice however is now banned and referred to as "gene doping".


But isn’t it the reason why we all watch the Olympics? To admire those who run faster, jump higher and lift more?


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