Beijing: the first genetically modified Olympics? (2008, Aug 4)


Beijing: the first genetically modified Olympics?"The curtain will rise on what many experts believe could prove to be the first genetically modified Olympics.

For the unscrupulous or overdriven Olympic athlete, the banned practice of doping by taking hormones or other drugs to enhance athletic prowess may seem so last century. The next thing in doping is more profound and more dangerous. It called gene doping: permanently inserting strength- or endurance-boosting genes into DNA.

Once you put that gene in, it's there for the rest of that person's life, says Larry Bowers, a clinical chemist at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in Colorado Springs, Colo. You can't go back and fish it out.

Scientists developed the technology behind gene doping as a promising way to treat genetic diseases such as sickle-cell anemia and the bubble boy immune deficiency syndrome. This experimental medical technology called gene therapy has begun to emerge from the pall of early failures and fatalities in clinical trials. As gene therapy begins to enjoy some preliminary successes, scientists at the World Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees drug testing for the Olympics, have started to worry that dopers might now see abuse of gene therapy in sport as a viable option, though the practice was banned by WADA in 2003.

Gene therapy has now broken out from what seemed to be too little progress and has now shown real therapies for a couple diseases, and more coming, says Theodore Friedmann, a gene therapy expert at the University of California, San Diego and chairman of WADA's panel on gene doping.

While gene therapy research has begun making great strides, the science of detecting illicit use of gene therapy in sport is only now finding its legs. To confront the perceived inevitability of gene doping, Friedmann and other scientists have started in recent years to explore the problem of detecting whether an athlete has inserted a foreign gene an extra copy that may be indistinguishable from the natural genes into his or her DNA.

It's proving to be a formidable challenge. Genetic makeup varies from person to person, and world-class athletes are bound to have some natural genetic endowments that other people lack. Somehow, gene-doping tests must distinguish between natural genetic variation among individuals and genes inserted artificially and the distinction must stand up in court.

Scientists are fighting genetics with genetics, so to speak, enlisting the latest technologies for gene sequencing or for profiling the activity of proteins to find the telltale signs of gene doping. Some techniques attempt the daunting search for the foreign gene itself, like looking for a strand of hay in an enormous haystack."

This is what living in a culture of greed, competition, and winning above all instead of fairness and loving what you do is doing to people. Even to the point of inserting this foreign DNA and not knowing for sure what it will do to your body. So we eat genetically modified food (without our knowledge) and now can genetically modify our own bodies all to profit those who don't care about the affects this is having on us... and athletes that are women who do this and get pregnant afterwards ... what risks would their children now face? Is winning and $$$ and endorsements REALLY all that important? So what will the new trend be: Bodies by Monsanto?