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Gene Doping

Bioethics and the Future of Sport

Bioethics and the Future of Sport


What: Scientific congress on genetics and sportWhen: July, 2012 Where:  Federal University of Sao Paulo Who: mainly genetic scientists

Here's a film from a talk I gave in Sao Paulo earlier in the year - translated into Portuguese. I also did a book signing while there for the Brazilian version of 'Genetically Modified Athletes.

Here's the presentation to accompany it

Future Sport

Talk given at the Royal College of Art for their Design Interactions programme.

The idea of transhumanism

In a brief interview while in Madrid, I was asked about my views on transhumanism. Here I am putting it as succinctly as possible.  

Genetically Modified Athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games?

Genetically Modified Athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games?


This week, I am in Sao Paulo for the 1st Congress on Genomics and Sport, taking place at the Federal University of Sao Paulo. Some of the good and great in this area are here, many are among my oldest colleagues. My first talk on this was in 1999 at the 1st Conference on Human Rights and Sport, in Sydney. I'm aiming to give a retrospective on what's happened in bioethics and sport over the last decade, while presenting my typology of human enhancements. We'll also have a book presentation of both the Brazilian translation of 'Genetically Modified Athletes' and the new 'Olympics: Basics' book.

Among the questions I am asked about this topic is whether there will be genetically modified athletes at the next Olympic Games and I've been asked this for Athens, Torino, Beijing, and Vancouver. The honesty answer is, we don't know. IF there are, they may not win and they could certainly be risking serious health problems, but for some years now scientists have argued that it is technically feasible to achieve with limited means.

Deporte, ética y derecho

In Octubre, estare hablar sobre deporte, ética y derecho en Barcelona por el Universidad Pomeu Fabra. Es un conferencia en la escula de derecho y abajo tiene la programa. Within my talk, I will weave in themes about democracy, freedom and the good life...

Presentación: ¿Por qué es importante el deporte para la filosofía del derecho?

Prof. José Luis Pérez Triviño Prof. Titular de Filosofía del Derecho. UPF. 10-10,30 h.

Why Anti-Doping Will Not Last: Bioethics & Sport in an Era of Human Enhancement

Prof. Andy Miah Director Creative Futures Research Centre Chair of Ethics and Emerging Technologies University of the West of Scotland. 10,30-11,30 h.

Las lesiones deportivas y el Derecho Penal

Prof. José Manuel Ríos Corbacho Prof. de Derecho Penal. Universidad de Cádiz. 11,45-12,45 h.

Dopaje y paternalismo

Prof. Claudio Tamburrini Investigador del Centre for Healthcare Ethics. Facultad de Filosofía. Universidad de Estocolmo. 12,45-13,45 h.


thumbnail image by Andy Miah, Iraq 2003 protest in Barcelona

Gene Doping

Photo Credit: University of Utah, 2002

This new volume published by the International Olympic Committee concludes with a chapter I have written titled 'Bioethical Concerns in a Culture of Human Enhancement'. There are some publications that have special meaning and this is one of them. The book is the IOC's XVII volume of their highly prestigious 'Encyclopaedia of Sports Medicine'. This volume may be regarded as the definitive book on the use of genetic technology in sports and my chapter is one of four that focus on social and ethical issues.

Given my views on doping, it feels like a privilege to be published here and reason for optimism that the world is a more open place than one may otherwise assume. The editors are Claude Bouchard and Eric P. Hoffman, the latter of whom I met in relation to a Hastings Centre and WADA project back in 2005.

Here's an excerpt from the Conclusion:

"The ethics of performance enhancement in sport are operationalized through WADA as a principle of “strict liability”, which deems that any positive anti-doping test means immediate suspension pending an inquiry. Yet, there are many biotechnological modifications that the sports world does not address, such as functional elective surgery. To this extent, questions remain about how genetic and molecular modifications or knowledge should be treated in the long term. Arguably, as humanity’s continued pursuit of health progresses, it will become apparent that the use of such science implies seeking to alter those biological processes that are a part of the aging process, and our intervention ultimately will ensure a collapse of the distinction between therapy and enhancement. If societies accept such continued pursuit, then the attempts to maintain sport as an environment free from enhancement will not simply be impractical or undesirable, they would also contravene fundamental human rights.

To this end, as the sports world races ahead to criminalize doping practices and treat the widespread use of performance enhancement as a broad public health issue, it will need to consider the interface between the local, national and international policy debates. Arguably, the political history of sport in the post-war period ensured that genetic science would be treated as a questionable technology for sports, where gene doping would become an integral part of the war on drugs. Yet, as the American Academy of Pediatrics (2005) noted, young people are not using steroids just for competitive sport. Rather, there is a broad culture of enhancement that underpins the use of technology. In time, genetic modification may become a part of this culture, though its integration within society will emerge first through applications that are medically justified and sports have yet to resolve how they will address the genetically modified athlete that society deems to be medically permissible." (pp. 390-391)

Miah, A. (2011) Bioethical Concerns in a Culture of Human Enhancement In Bouchard, C. & Hoffman, E. Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine, Genetic and Molecular Aspects of Sport Performance. Lausanne, International Olympic Committee, pp. 383-392.


The DREAM Gene

Miah, A. (2010) The DREAM Gene for the Posthuman Athlete: Reducing Exercise-Induced Pain Sensations Using Gene Transfer. In Sands, R.R. & Sands, L. The Anthropology of Sport and Human Movement: A Bicultural Perspective, Lexington Books, Lanham, Maryland, pp.327-341.

Here's the book's blurb:

The evolution of the human species has always been closely tied to the relationship between biology and culture, and the human condition is rooted in this fascinating intersection. Sport, games, and competition serve as a nexus for humanity's innate fixation on movement and social activity, and these activities have served throughout history to encourage the proliferation of human culture for any number of exclusive or inclusive motivations: money, fame, health, spirituality, or social and cultural solidarity. The study of anthropology, as presented in Anthropology of Sport and Human Movement, provides a scope that offers a critical and discerning perspective on the complex calculus involving human biological and cultural variation that produces human movement and performance. Each chapter of this compelling collection resonates with the theme of a tightly woven relationship of biology and culture, of evolutionary implications and contemporary biological and cultural expression.

and my abstract:

Downstream Regulatory Element Antagonistic Modulator, or DREAM for short, is a protein critical to pain sensations experienced by organisms. Recent research has suggested that this genetic origin to pain might be possible to exploit for the purpose of pain management (Cheng et al., 2002; Cheng and Penninger, 2003). This paper discusses the ethical implications of DREAM for sport to advance the debate on what constitutes a legitimate method of performance modification. Initially, it is argued that DREAM presents a more complex problem for anti-doping authorities than other methods of gene doping, since it cannot easily be characterized as enhancing or therapeutic. Indeed, the basis of this distinction is criticized by exploring a biocultural definition of health. On this model, which seems unlikely to be endorsed by anti-doping authorities, but, nevertheless, which is perpetuated by sport physicians, the use of DREAM would seem more difficult to prohibit on medical grounds. Its use is consistent with a medical desire to alleviate suffering, even where it is self-induced. A similar dichotomy exists when discussing the relevance of pain from a sporting perspective. While one might presume that the ethics of sport is such that any legal mechanism to improve performance is desirable for an athlete, pain tolerance appears to have a symbolic value that would undermine the usefulness of DREAM. This tension demonstrates greater complexity to the debate about the role of technology in sport and its ideological connotations about what it means to be an athlete.

Arte (Switzerland)

On 30 July, I'll be one of a number of commentators in a documentary to be screened on the TV channel Arte. The film is about gene doping and is directed by Beat Glogger, an awesome character living in Switzerland

Gene Doping

As the Vancouver 2010 Games approach, will these be a genetically modified Olympics? This essay is a reply to Friedmann, Rabin et al in Science this week.

The Future of Doping - it's in the Genes! (2009, Oct)

The Future of Doping - it's in the Genes! <> By Duane Corbett with an intro by Joe Papp

Last month here at Pappillon <> , we revealed that one of Denmark's leading blood researchers believed that Lance Armstrong's blood values from the 2009 Tour de France were suspicious and could be indicative of blood doping <> . We followed the story when the main stream media wussed-out (except for, where Shane Stokes made a valiant effort <> ), documented what others were saying, shared our own opinions, made scientific fact and proven theory accessible through this site, and, most of all, made it clear that we still believe doping is a problem in pro cycling and that Jakob Mørkebjerg's claims shouldn't be dismissed outright.

Not surprisingly, Lance Armstrong didn't agree, and he lamely offered a four-letter response via Twitter to the serious questions that Mørkebjerg's insights raised in the eyes of the public: "SSDD <> ".

But is doping (and the talk of doping) in cycling really just the "same shit, different day," scenario that The Lance would have us believe? To explore that question more deeply, Pappillon's newest guest contributor Duane Corbett shares his thoughts on the potential for gene-doping to infect cycling:

With an investigation <> into doping at this year's Tour already underway, and involving the Astana Pro Cycling Team and several others from the Tour's line-up, anti-doping authorities are likely considering just these scenarios as they try to determine what doping practices are currently en vogue - the same as were popular last year, some forgotten methodologies from the past, or new, as-of-yet unreported cutting-edge techniques.

Since there were no positive drug tests at the 2009 Tour de France it appears no one was doing the same stuff this year. However, several suspicious drugs were recovered at the race including sitagliptin (anti-diabetic), valpromide (anti-convulsant), telmisartan (anti-hypertensive), and quinapril (anti-hypertensive). It is important to note that the latter two may be linked to some of the old stuff as hypertension is a known adverse effect of blood transfusion.

Going into the 2009 Tour de France, many predicted <> the practice of autologous blood transfusions to be present among riders. And why not? While tests have been developed to test for the use of synthetic EPO and homologous blood transfusions, there is still no definitive test for autologous doping; only the biological passport, which compares riders blood level records to permissible limits. So while the previous implementation of permissible limits may be seen as a green light, the biological passport may be seen as a speed bump.

Let’s quickly remind ourselves what someone’s blood samples would look like if they were transfusing themselves with their own blood. Where you would normally see a decline in red blood cells, hematocrit, and hemoglobin over the period of several days racing, someone transfusing themselves with their own blood would always have that same fresh and replenished baseline they started with. The only problem is so would someone with diarrhea <> .

Now that the old stuff and the same stuff have been covered, what are the possibilities of new stuff? With the finding of such drugs like sitagliptin and valpromide, we can’t help but wonder what is, or what could be, going on right now that we don’t know about.

One of the biggest fears of anti-doping authorities is the introduction of gene doping. Dr. Theodore Friedmann, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency's gene doping panel has been quoted to say, “It will happen, but we don't know when.” Unfortunately, it may have happened already.

In 2008, scientists discovered orally active agents that genetically switch on an endurance gene signature that was shown to increase running endurance by 44% in sedentary mice. The first target of these drugs is PPARδ, a transcriptional regulator, and the second is AMPK, a serine-threonine kinase. Both PPARδ and AMPK contribute to metabolic reprogramming and are respectively targeted by the drugs GW1516 and AICAR.

A link to a brief video that would make anyone feel like a leading researcher on the topic is available here <> . The research article in its entirety is available here <,_Issue_3,_Pages_367-548_%288_August_2008%29%23tagged%23Volume%23first%3D134%23Issue%23first%3D3%23date%23%288_August_2008%29%23&view=c&_gw=y&wchp=dGLzVzz-zSkzV&md5=39775faaea5f20eff1ebb08f614bdf9a&ie=/sdarticle.pdf> .

While these drugs have only been tested in animals, the gap in time since their discovery opens possibility for human interaction. Although we do not know if it is happening now, we do know that the era of gene doping, or new stuff, different day, is uncomfortably close. --Duane Corbett is a doctoral student in exercise physiology at Kent State University. His research, focused primarily on cycling, has previously examined the relationship between preferred pedal rates and perceived exertion, while current research involvement is examining the effect of cycling on Parkinson’s disease. A former collegiate cyclist, he is the founder of the current Indiana University of Pennsylvania Cycling Team.

How Fast Can A Human Run The 100 Meter Sprint? (2009, Aug 6)

How Fast Can A Human Run The 100 Meter Sprint? <>By News Staff <>  | August 6th 2009 12:00 AM | 6 comments <>  | Print <>  | E-mail <>  | Track Comments <> Usain Bolt, sprinter from Jamaica, currently holds the world record in the 100 meter sprint with a time of 9.69 seconds.  Whenever new records are set, people ask 'what is the limit on human performance?'

So how fast can a human run?

Two econometricians from Tilburg University in the Netherlands, Professor of Statistics John Einmahl and former student Sander Smeets, say have calculated the ultimate records for the 100-meter sprint. The good news; there is still room for improvement in both the men's and women's times in the near future.

They used extreme value theory <>  to calculate by how much the current records for the 100 meter sprint could be improved.

Extreme-value theory is a sub-sector of statistics, which tries to answer questions about extreme events (which by definition are uncommon), using information about less extreme events. The theory is normally applied within the financial and insurance world to estimate the risk of extreme damage resulting from storms, earthquakes or the bursting of a dyke, for example, in order to calculate premiums.

With a little modification, they say it can apply to sports as well.

Einmahl and Smeets analyzed the records of 762 male and 479 female athletes. Each athlete was listed once, and the times were recorded between January 1991 and June 2008. Times run before 1991 were discounted on account of the inadequate doping controls before this date. The men's times varied between 9.72 and 10.30 seconds, and the women's from 10.65 to 11.38.

According to Smeets and Einmahl, the fastest time that the men are capable of sprinting is 9.51 seconds, which knocks 0.18 seconds off Usain Bolt's current world record. For female 100m sprinters, another 0.16 seconds can be knocked off the 10.49 run by Florence Griffith-Joyner, which would mean a time of 10.33. In a more cautious estimate (with a 95% confidence interval <> ), the predicted times are 9.21 for the men and 9.88 for the women.

Sander Smeets studied Finance and Actuarial Sciences at Tilburg University and now works as a junior actuary at AZL, in Heerlen. John Einmahl is Professor of Statistics at Tilburg University.

Paper: 'Ultimate 100m world records through extreme-value theory <> ', CentER Discussion Paper nr. 57

Cambridge University

Today, I was in Cambridge at Corpus Christi for a debate about human enhancement and sport. Within the line up were Dr Alun Williams, Dr Thomas Petersen and world record breaking Paralympian gold medal winner Clare Cunningham, chaired by Michele Verroken

It was part of their 'Triple Helix' seminar series. Here was their brief:

"Hormones, vitamins, stimulants and depressives are oils upon the creaky machinery of life.  Principal item, however, is the machinery."  Martin H. Fischer

Sport is about pushing the human body as far as is physically possible. But what about scientific advancements that can surpass these limitations? The expanding spheres of molecular biology and materials science give more possibilities to extend human strength and endurance. To confuse issues further, there are a whole host of legal supplements that can enhance performance, and technology is improving sports equipment not just humans.

In the second of two debates examining human enhancement, join our panel of experts to discuss the impact science is having and will have on sport:

Ethics @ Work: Let the 'Mutant Games' begin (2008, Apr 14)

Ethics @ Work: Let the 'Mutant Games' begin Aug. 14, 2008 Asher Meir , THE JERUSALEM POST We are fortunate that the sporting news from Beijing has come mainly from the playing field, and not from the laboratory. Cycling coverage is always a close race between the results from the course and the results of the drug policing, but following the disqualification of a number of Russian women athletes, doping has been pretty much out of the news at the Olympics. However, the reality of doping is always looming in the background, and the spectators are left wondering, does s/he or doesn't s/he? The assumption that doping is more or less pervasive, and that the vagaries of defining and detecting it will always make enforcement arbitrary, has led a number of observers to draw a fascinating parallel between today's prohibition on doping and the previous prohibition on professionalism. Nowadays the Olympics are all about money. The papers are filled with estimates of how much a gold medal costs in terms of the infrastructure needed to create champions (it's about $30 million) and much how one is worth in terms of endorsements (often seven figures for tennis players or track athletes, more like five or six for fencers or synchronized swimmers). It's hard to believe that as recently as the 1980s strict rules against professionalism were in place. Anyone who earned money from sport (this once applied even to teachers of sport), or anyone who competed against others who earned money from sport, was disqualified. The legendary American athlete Jim Thorpe, who won two Olympic gold medals in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, had his medals stripped after it was revealed that he had played minor league baseball years before. Strict enforcement of the amateurism rules would have meant that only independently wealthy individuals would be able to compete. What happened instead was a cynical and arbitrary application of the rules. The Soviet bloc had athletes who were professionals in every sense, though their profession was usually listed as soldier or student, while the West had an elaborate system of under-the-table payments, "expense" payments, trust funds and so on. The system was a nightmare, since all athletes received money but only some were disqualified. Finally in the 1990s the system fell apart. The de facto professionalism of Soviet bloc athletes, which gave them an immense advantage in international competition, was a critical factor. The parallel to doping is expressed as follows: Just as it was practically impossible to compete on an international level in the 20th century without accepting money, so it is practically impossible to compete on an international level in the 21st century without using performance-enhancing substances. (This of course has not been proven.) The exact definition of doping is subject to dispute, just as the exact definition of professionalism is. Both can take place in secret, making enforcement necessarily arbitrary. The conclusion: Rules against doping should fall by the wayside just as rules against professionalism did. The counterargument is as follows: In the case of professionalism, almost all the athletes wanted to get money, and most of the spectators didn't mind if they did. In the case of doping, almost all of the athletes prefer not to take performance-enhancing substances, and almost all of the spectators also prefer that they don't. The athletes prefer no doping because doping regimens require a huge amount of effort and expense, and because many of the drugs are dangerous. For example, the endurance-enhancing drug EPO thickens the blood, and is the prime suspect in the sudden early deaths of a number of cyclists. Insiders tell of cyclists getting up in the middle of the night to exercise in order to get the blood moving to prevent their doped blood from killing them; obviously they would prefer getting a good night's sleep. The spectators prefer no doping because they don't care about outcomes, they only care about the competition - a level playing field. Women's tennis is nearly as popular as men's, even though the top women are no match for mediocre male players, because it is a fair and exciting game. The playing field is most level without doping. But what if it's not true? The same "arms race" hypothesis was advanced for professionalism in sport, and was proven false. Maybe the athletes want to push the envelope of the ultimate capabilities of the technology-aided human body, while the spectators want to see the tallest, fastest and strongest athletes science can provide! John Tierney of The New York Times has an interesting suggestion to test this idea: Set up an alternative "no-holds-barred" competition with no doping tests allowed. (He even gives some suggestions for names, including the "Mutant Games.") One must assume that the regular leagues will ban anyone who takes part in these competitions, even if they submit to the testing regimen, just as the amateur rules forbade not only professionals but also amateurs who competed against them. If the athletes are chafing at the testing regimen and the spectators want to see drug-aided competitors, then the new league will draw competitors and spectators; if not, then the "arms-race" hypothesis of doping will have been proven true. There is a slight problem with this test, due to the great prestige of the official events. Attempts to establish professional athletic competitions in the 20th century were unsuccessful, because athletes discovered they could make much more money in the more prestigious amateur leagues. Yet when the prestige events themselves allowed professionals, everyone was happy. I personally am strongly inclined to believe the received wisdom; that doping is a destructive arms race, and that everyone besides the undertakers would be happy to get rid of it. But Tierney's suggestion is an interesting way to see if the received wisdom is correct. Asher Meir is research director at the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem (, an independent institute in the Jerusalem College of Technology.

Gene doping in sport: fact or fiction? (2008, Dec 6)

Gene doping in sport: fact or fiction? Experts believe it is only a matter of time before athletes manipulate their genetic material to gain an unfair advantage despite the current lack of proven cases. A science journalist, who has published a novel on the theme, and a scientist working in the field of genetics talked to swissinfo about the likelihood and dangers of gene doping in sport.

Since the times of ancient Greece, a minority of athletes have employed a variety of potions to artificially boost their performance. More recently, amphetamines, anabolic steroids and hormones have been the drugs of choice.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has recently turned its attention to the threat of gene doping and officially banned the practice in 2003. There have already been suspicions of some athletes using the gene therapy Repoxygen to increase their red blood cell count and thereby allow the body to absorb more oxygen.

Professor Max Gassmann of Zurich University's Institute of Veterinary Physiology has manipulated the erythropoietin (EPO) gene of mice to produce more oxygen carrying red blood cells – a process that could eventually be transferred to humans.

Gassmann does not think gene doping has infiltrated sport at the moment but believes some people may already be testing its potential, just as beneficial gene therapy is currently undergoing clinical trials.

"I can hardly imagine that we had a gene doping cheat winning at the Beijing Olympics," he told swissinfo. "But there has been doping throughout history and if gene doping becomes viable then you cannot stop it, because people want to win." Fictional leap Author Beat Glogger has taken the theory a stage further by writing a thriller – "Run For My Life" – about genetically modified athletes. Glogger, also a science journalist, and Gassmann contributed to a Swiss sports ministry document warning about the risks of gene doping.

Scientists have already identified more than 150 genes that potentially influence performance in sports. These include genes that control muscle growth, muscle speed and the production of red blood cells.

"I take the next step into fiction by saying it is possible to manipulate the genes that control speed, power, endurance and even mental strength. These are the four key factors for athletic performance," Glogger told swissinfo.

There are many cases of people with naturally malfunctioning genes. Most of the time this results in health problems, such as muscular dystrophy, but the rare occurrence of a mutation can also bring benefits.

Finnish cross-country skiing legend Eero Mäntyranta won race after race in the 1960s because of a natural genetic mutation that helped his blood absorb large amounts of oxygen. It would be very hard in future to determine if such a case was caused by nature or gene manipulation, according to Glogger.

"If, after the introduction of the relevant genes, the body produces more EPO or testosterone by itself then you cannot detect it - it looks like you are a natural," he said. To die for However, athletes run a high risk of developing serious diseases such as cancer or even dying if they submit to gene manipulation that is still in the early days of scientific development.

Gassmann's genetically modified mice live only half as long as other mice. Scientists know how to modify genes and introduce them into the body, but not how to control the behaviour of such genes once they have been implanted.

"Whatever you put into the body is hard to control. If you realise it is no good then it is almost impossible to stop, and that is what could happen with gene cheating athletes," Gassmann said. "It is easy to switch on a light but much more complicated to dim it."

One method of controlling modified genes is to develop drugs that act like on and off switches, but this process is still in its infancy.

"Gene doping could be undetectable and it could improve performance but you could also die," Glogger warned. Just like the characters in his book.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Zurich

European sport ministers discuss ethics, gene doping (2008, Dec 19)

European sport ministers discuss ethics, gene dopingPublished: Friday 19 December 2008 Ministers and other stakeholders acknowledge that there are corruption, match-fixing and illegal betting problems in sport and have asked the Council of Europe to tackle these and other emerging ethical challenges in sport, such as gene doping. Sport representatives gathered for a Council of Europe conference on 12 December, adopted a package of three resolutions, including measures to address sports ethics.

The ministers "acknowledge that there is a problem of corruption, match fixing and illegal betting in sport and invite sports organisations to investigate the situation and, where appropriate, identify the problems".

The Council of Europe is invited to draw up a draft recommendation which could form the basis of a new convention on these issues and help increase integrity controls.

In particular, the ministers ask the Council of Europe to address emerging challenges such as genetic engineering in sport.

Doping refers to the use of performance-enhancing drugs, which is forbidden by organisations that regulate sport competitions. It is widely seen as unethical by most international sports organisations as it damages health and undermines the equality of opportunity of athletes.

A major new ethical challenge in the fight against doping is the use of genetic engineering, declares the resolution.

Gene doping can enhance athletic performance without being detected in blood and urine tests. The issue is currently being addressed in bioethical debates about human enhancement. "One of our main priorities should be well prepared to react quickly to new ethical challenges,” agreed Birgitta Kervinen, president of the European Non-Governmental Sports Organisation (ENGSO).

The resolution on pan-European sport cooperation invites the Council of Europe to consider ways of increasing its cooperation with the European Union.

"I believe that it is the clear interest of EU members and non-members alike to avoid any developments which would introduce duplication and weaken pan-European arrangements for a better and healthier sport across the continent and beyond," said Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, deputy secretary-general of the Council of Europe.

The resolution on autonomy and sport reflects concerns that stakeholders have over the growing commercialisation of sport and the effects it has on the autonomy of sports movements.

Couch-Potato Drugs Are WADA’s First Banned for Gene-Doping Ties (2009, Jan 14)

Couch-Potato Drugs Are WADA’s First Banned for Gene-Doping Ties By Mason Levinson Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Two drugs that activate genetic switches, fooling the body into believing it has exercised, are the first to be added to the Olympic sports prohibited list for their ties to gene doping. The drugs, whose effects were first disclosed in a report published online by the journal Cell on July 31, were added to the nine-page list issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency under the “Gene Doping” classification as of Jan. 1. It’s a category that is likely to grow over the next five to 10 years, said Dr.Gary Wadler , who heads WADA’s Prohibited List Committee, as gene therapy becomes “part of the matrix of what physicians have to treat patients.” “There’s gene-therapy stuff going on in research labs everywhere in the world,” Wadler said in an interview at his Manhasset, New York, office. “I think they’re going to cause breakthroughs, and those breakthroughs, if they have any application to enhance athletic performance, then you’ll ultimately see it banned.” One of the drugs is a synthetic protein called Aicar that, when given to mice, improved endurance by 44 percent after four weeks, even without exercise. The other is an experimental medicine made by GlaxoSmithKline Plc , GW1516, which remodeled the mice’s skeletal muscle and raised their endurance levels by 75 percent when the animals also ran on a treadmill. WADA ’s 2009 prohibited list includes nearly 70 anabolic steroids; about 60 stimulants; hormones; diuretics and other masking agents; blood-doping methods; and several narcotics. The Montreal-based agency oversees anti-drug programs for Olympic- level sports. 2002 Prediction Wadler said he “predicted the future” when in 2002 he wrote a chapter on emerging science and technologies for the textbook “Performance Enhancing Substances in Sport and Exercise.” In it, he discussed the implications of the U.S. Human Genome Project, which was launched in 1990, and examined gene transfer therapy. “The dissection of the human genetic code not only opened a Pandora’s box of diagnostic tools and methods; it has significantly paved the way for an array of therapeutic interventions never conceived before and has spawned the field of pharmacogenetics,” he wrote at the time. WADA held a gene-doping workshop for scientists, ethicists, athletes and representatives from the Olympic movement in March 2002 and again in December 2005 and June 2008. It formed its expert panel on gene doping in 2004. ‘Couch Potato’ Last July, a news release , titled “Exercise in a Pill,” announced the results of the study by the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego that detailed the effects of Aicar, which it called the “ultimate couch-potato experiment,” as well as the effects of GW1516. The findings may lead to the development of obesity and muscle-wasting-disease treatments, and has implications for the treatment of diabetes and lipid disorders. By activating different genetic switches with the two drugs, the scientists were able to increase fat burning and the mice showed major transformation of skeletal muscle fibers. In giving the mice GW1516 and a regular exercise regimen, for example, they saw a 38 percent increase in “slow twitch” muscle fibers, which relate to a muscle’s endurance. “They have the capacity of changing the patterns of gene expression in cells and tissues, so our view is that that’s a form of gene manipulation,” Theodore Friedmann , chairman of WADA’s Gene Doping Panel, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think that list is going to shrink. It’s probably going to increase markedly over the years.” Test Procedures Ronald Evans , who is a professor in the Salk Institute’s Gene Expression Laboratory and led the research into the use of Aicar and GW1516 to manipulate signaling pathways, also developed a test to readily detect the drugs in blood and urine, and is working with WADA to enact its implementation. While these drugs can be easily detected, other gene- therapy methods are much more problematic for WADA, and in turn sports associations and leagues. These involve the use of genetic techniques to bring doping substances to muscle tissue and other targets without passing through blood and urine, thereby confounding testing efforts. “It’s better for patients, but it also makes it more challenging because of doping,” Wadler said. Friedmann, who runs a gene-therapy laboratory at the University of California, San Diego, said WADA has mounted a major research program to develop ways to find evidence of gene manipulation. Drug’s Effect “WADA is very forward-looking into designing new forms of doping detection based on the new principle that you don’t look for the drug itself, you look for the effect of the drug,” said Friedmann. In February, the committee will begin reviewing the 2009 list, assessing research and what they’ve learned about doping through everything from medical journals to police investigations. They’ll then tweak the list and turn it over to WADA’s Executive Committee for final approval Oct. 1, giving sports organizations three months to adopt new regulations and understand the changes. To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York .

The World’s First GM Human Embryo Could Dramatically Alter the Future (2009, March 20)

The World’s First GM Human Embryo Could Dramatically Alter the Future “The advance of genetic engineering makes it quite conceivable that we will begin to design our own evolutionary progress.” ~Isaac Asimov, famous thinker and sci-fi writer Cornell University researchers in New York revealed that they had produced what is believed to be the world’s first genetically altered human embryo—an ironic twist considering all the criticism the US has heaped on South Korea over the past several years for going “too far” with its genetic research programs. The Cornell team, led by Nikica Zaninovic, used a virus to add a green fluorescent protein gene, to a human embryo left over from an in vitro fertilization procedure. The research was presented at a meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine last year, but details have emerged only after new controversy has emerged over the ethics and science of genetically modifying humans. Zaninovic has pointed out that in order to be sure that the new gene had been inserted and the embryo had been genetically modified, scientists would ideally want to keep growing the embryo and carry out further tests. However, the Cornell team did not get permission to keep the embryo alive. The GM embryos created could theoretically have become the world’s first genetically altered man or woman, but it was destroyed after five days. British regulators form the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), have warned that such controversial experiments cause “large ethical and public interest issues”. Much of the debate stems from the fact that the effects of genetically altering an embryo would be generational and permanent. In other words, if we create a mutant baby and it grows up to have children of it’s own—they’ll all be mutant gene carriers too. Genes injected into embryos and reproductive cells, such as sperm, affect every cells in the body and would be passed on to future generations. Critics say current humans don’t have the right to tamper with the gene pool of future generations. On the other hand, proponents of such technology say that this science could potentially erase diseases such as cystic fibrosis, hemophilia and even cancer. In theory, any “good” gene could be added to embryos to offset any “bad” genes they are currently carrying. That could potentially mean the difference between life and death for many children. John Harris, the Sir David Alliance Professor of Bioethics at Manchester University, takes it a step further. He believes that as parents, citizens, and scientists, we are morally obliged to do whatever we can genetically to make life better and longer for our children and ourselves. Society currently devotes so much energy and resources towards saving lives, which, in reality, is simply postponing death, he notes. If it is right to save life, Harris reasons, then it should also be right to postpone death by stemming the flow of diseases that carry us to the grave. For Harris, having the ability to improve our species lot in life but refusing to do so, makes little sense. He has a difficult time understanding why some people are so insistent that we shouldn’t try to improve upon human evolution. “Can you imagine our ape ancestors getting together and saying, ‘this is pretty good, guys. Let’s stop it right here!’. That’s the equivalent of what people say today.” Ethicists, however, warn that genetically modifying embryos will lead to designer babies preloaded with socially desirable traits involving height, intelligence and coloring. Dr David King, director of Human Genetics Alert, warns, “This is the first step on the road that will lead to the nightmare of designer babies and a new eugenics.” Harris, however, doesn’t support that argument. He says it’s not about “beauty” it’s about health, and what parent wouldn’t want a healthy child, he asks. “Certainly, sometimes we want competitive advantage [for our children], but for the enhancements I talk about, the competitive advantage is not the prime motive. I didn’t give my son a good diet in the hope that others eat a bad diet and die prematurely. I’m happy if everyone has a good diet. The moral imperative should be that enhancements are generally available because they are good for everyone.” The only other route to equality, he says, is to level down so that everyone is as uneducated, unhealthy and unenhanced as the lowest in society – which would be much more unethical in his opinion. Even though we can’t offer a liver transplant to all who need them, he says, we still carry them out for the lucky few. “Much better to try to raise the baseline, even if some are left behind.” The Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill in currently under consideration in Britain will likely make it legal to create GM embryos in that country, but only for research—implantation in the womb will still be banned—at least for now. However, ethicists believe that the legislation could easily be relaxed even further in the future. People who believe that genetically modified humans is something way into the future might want to consider that many experts are worried that some forms of it are already happening in the sports world. Faster, bigger, better, stronger—in theory, the single most effective way to radically alter your physical capacities is to manipulate your genes. Athletes are beginning to take notice. Now that we’ve mapped out the human genome and identified exactly which genes make you buff, tough and rough—experts are concerned about the future of genetic doping. Gene doping could spawn athletes capable of out-running, out-jumping and out-cycling even the world’s greatest champions. However, researchers at the University of Florida are attempting to prevent that from happening by detecting the first cases of gene doping in professional athletes before the practice becomes mainstream. Montreal-based World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), responsible for monitoring the conduct of athletes, is working with investigators around the globe to develop testing to identify competitors who have injected themselves with genetic material that is capable of enhancing muscle mass or heightening endurance. “If an athlete injects himself in the muscle with DNA, would we be able to detect that?” asked one of France’s leading gene therapy researchers, Philippe Moullier, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Gene Therapy Laboratory at the Universite de Nantes in France. Right now, he says the answer is clearly “no”. But that may soon change. The UF scientists are among several groups collaborating with national and global anti-doping organizations to develop a test that can detect evidence of “doped” DNA. “WADA has had a research program in place for some years now, to try to develop tests for gene-based doping,” said Theodore Friedmann, M.D., head of the agency’s panel on genetic doping and director of the gene therapy program at the University of California, San Diego. Nearly every day now we are inundated with new genetic discoveries. Scientists can now pinpoint many specific genes including being lean, living a long life, improved self-healing, thrill seeking behavior, and having an improved memory among many other incredible traits. Many believe that these genes can be manipulated in ordinary humans, in effect creating Super-Mutants. Theoretically, options are nearly limitless. Even a gene that exists in another species could be brought over to a human cell. Imagine some of the incredible traits of the animal kingdom that some humans don’t possess such as night vision, amazing agility, or the ability to breath underwater. The precedence for these types of radical changes is already in place. Experimental mice, for example, were successfully given the human ability to see in color. If animals can be engineered to have human traits, then humans can certainly be mutated to have desirable animal traits. It is even thought possible to so drastically alter human genomes that a type of superhuman species could emerge. The fear with germline engineering is that since it is inheritable, offspring and all succeeding generations would carry the modified traits. This is one reason why this type of engineering is currently banned- it could lead to irreversible alteration of the entire human species. Ethics, not scientific limitations, is the real brick wall. Most scientists believe manipulating genes in order to make an individual healthy is a noble and worthwhile pursuit. Some are against even that notion, arguing that historically amazing individuals have sometimes been plagued by genetic mental and physical disorders, which inadvertently shaped the greatness of their lives. Should we rob the human race of character shaping frailty? Very few scientists would dare to publicly endorse the idea of using genetic engineering to make a normal, healthy individuals somehow superior to the rest of the human race. “The push to redesign human beings, animals and plants to meet the commercial goals of a limited number of individuals is fundamentally at odds with the principle of respect for nature,” said Brent Blackwelder, President of Friends of the Earth in his testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee. However, would it be so bad if the human race were slightly improved? What if a relatively simple procedure could make an individual and his or her offspring resistant to cancer? After all, Nature isn’t always right. Nature has naturally selected many people to carry the burden of uncomfortable and often lethal genetic disorders. If nature knows best, then shouldn’t we quit trying to “improve” upon nature by “curing” people of genetic conditions we consider inferior? Many say we shouldn’t change human genetics, UNLESS it’s the RIGHT thing to do. Who gets to decide where the line is between righteous endeavor and the corruption of nature? These are the questions facing our generation. Posted by Rebecca Sato Related Galaxy posts: Can Humans Live to 1,000? Some Experts Claim We Can — Others Want to Prevent That The "Mickey Mouse" Experiment -Mice with Human Eyes Enhancing Evolution: Do Humans have a Moral and Ethical Duty to Improve the Human Race? Are We Close to Creating Super-Mutant Humans? The Story of a Biologist & the Extension of the Human Life Span Scientists Bio-engineer a Virus that Destroys Cancer Cells "Mind Children": Transhumanism & the Search For Genetic Perfection Sources & Related Stories:

WADA eyes research on gene doping (2009, Jan 16)

WADA eyes research on gene dopingDANIA BOGLE, Observer staff reporter Friday, January 16, 2009

THE World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is investing lots of money and resources into conducting research into how to detect gene doping as it continues its fight against cheating in sport.

WADA programmes development manager, Tom May, made the revelation at the panel discussion on Drug Free Sport during the Jamaica Anti-Doping Agency's two-day Symposium which wrapped up yesterday at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.

May spoke to advances in science which have already developed the ability to clone animals and possible future advances which might help dishonest athletes cheat.

Gene therapy already allows for the alteration of DNA to help the body fight certain diseases.

May explained that through gene doping an athlete could manipulate the body to grow bigger muscles or help them develop at a faster rate.

"We don't think it's quite in place but we don't think we can wait for it to occur," he said.

The WADA has already pumped close to US$8 million into the gene doping research.

Meanwhile, International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) Medical and Doping Commission member, Dr Herb Elliott, also noted that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and IAAF were also collaborating on a number of projects on the subject, including one at the Royal Caroline Institute in Sweden.

He discouraged the use of doping in sport, saying, "Doping Kills", adding that the dangers or using anabolic steroids included developing liver, heart, and kidney disease as well as epilepsy.

"It's one way of killing yourself by degrees," Elliott said. He added that in men, impotence and low sperm count were among the dangers, and mentioned the case of a female Bulgarian athlete who became pregnant while doping. The child, he said, was now a virtual 'vegetable' needing to visit the hospital at least once per week.

"Young ladies, don't take any foolishness it you wish to become a mother someday," Elliott implored.

The JADCO Symposium was part funded by GraceKennedy and UNESCO and involved athletes and officials from all national sporting associations.

Genetic Engineering Limits—A Planet Responds (2008, Dec 22)

Genetic Engineering Limits—A Planet RespondsRichard Hayes December 22nd 2008 Cutting Edge Genetics Analyst Over the past half century, the world has been transformed through rapid developments in communications, transportation, weaponry, and trade. A vast infrastructure of intergovernmental institutions has been established to help ensure that these and related developments generate more benefit than they do harm. These include global institutions such as the United Nations and the World Bank, regional groups such as the European Union and the African Union, and those with issue-specific agendas such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Health Organization. Although the record of these institutions is far from perfect, a world without them would be fraught with even more risk than it is today. The rapid development of powerful new human biotechnologies raises precisely the sort of questions that such intergovernmental institutions are positioned to address. If developed wisely, these technologies could help prevent and cure diseases that have afflicted humanity for millennia; if misapplied, they could pose new and profoundly consequential risks. Detailed knowledge of the human genome might lead to improved medical diagnostics, but could also lead to a Gattaca-like world in which affluent couples genetically modify their embryos in an attempt to create “designer babies.” The creation of clonal human embryos gives researchers tools to help investigate the developmental origin of congenital diseases, but brings us closer to the day when rogue scientists might attempt to create live-born human clones. Genetic interventions intended to help those suffering from degenerative muscular diseases could be used by athletes to illicitly enhance their strength and endurance. Many countries are adopting comprehensive national policies that establish guidelines, regulations, and laws stipulating which applications of the new human biotechnologies are permitted and which are not. But the greater majority of the world’s countries have not adopted policies regarding these technologies. Intergovernmental institutions are in a position to play major leadership roles in ensuring the proper use of the new human biotechnologies. They can promote greater understanding of both the benefits and the risks that these technologies pose; develop statements of principles to guide national policies; prepare model national legislation; and take the lead in negotiating binding multilateral treaties and conventions.

It will not be an easy task to come to formal agreement on even a minimal set of international principles and policies. These technologies are new and the issues involved are complex. But the encouraging news is that many key intergovernmental institutions have already begun taking steps to address the new human biotechnologies, and broad areas of at least implicit agreement are evident. The United Nations In 2001 France and Germany proposed a binding UN treaty calling for a prohibition on human reproductive cloning. An early procedural vote suggested unanimous support for this measure. A significant number of countries subsequently expressed opposition to banning reproductive cloning without simultaneously banning the use of cloning for research purposes. This led to extended controversy, and the debate became, essentially, a debate over the acceptability of research cloning. By 2003 it became clear that a consensus concerning research cloning could not be achieved. In 2005 a non-binding declaration opposing both research cloning and reproductive cloning was introduced and received a plurality of votes (46 percent), which under UN rules makes it the official UN position. However, the lack of a clear consensus rendered moot any proposals to promote this position further. In the absence of a formal global treaty, individual countries have proceeded to adopt their own policies addressing human cloning. By 2007 human reproductive cloning had been banned by 59 countries—including the great majority of those with robust biomedical research sectors—and approved by none. In 2007 scholars associated with the United Nations University noted that the prohibition of reproductive cloning might be considered to have attained the status of customary international law. This was not the case for cloning for research purposes, however, as policies adopted by individual countries varied widely. UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations working to promote international collaboration through education, science, and culture. In 1993 UNESCO established a Bioethics Programme within its Division of the Ethics of Science and Technology. The Programme is led by the International Bioethics Committee (IBC), consisting of 36 outside experts, and the Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee (IGBC), consisting of representatives from 36 member states. The Bioethics Programme has sponsored three major nonbinding international agreements. The Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights was adopted unanimously by the UNESCO General Conference in 1997 and ratified by the UN General Assembly in 1998. The declaration calls for member states to undertake specific actions, including the prohibition of "practices which are contrary to human dignity, such as reproductive cloning of human beings." It also calls on the IBC to study "practices that could be contrary to human dignity, such as germline interventions." The International Declaration on Human Genetic Data was adopted in 2003. The declaration is intended "to ensure the respect of human dignity and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the collection, processing, use and storage of human genetic and proteomic data, and of the biological samples from which they are derived, in keeping with the requirements of equality, justice and solidarity, while giving due consideration to freedom of thought and expression, including freedom of research." The Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights was adopted in 2005. The declaration used a human rights framework to establish normative principles in fifteen areas, including human dignity and human rights; equality, justice, and equity; and protecting future generations. These principles cover a wider range of issues than did the previous two bioethics declarations. UNESCO took the lead in negotiating the International Convention Against Doping in Sports in collaboration with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which had been established earlier by the International Olympic Committee. The Convention includes language banning the use of genetic technology to enhance athletic performance in official athletic events, referred to as "gene-doping." It entered into force on February 1, 2007, and has been ratified by 86 countries. The earlier Copenhagen Declaration on Anti-Doping in Sport has been signed by 192 countries. Council of Europe The Council of Europe is an international organization of 47 member countries working to foster democracy and human rights. It maintains a Bioethics Division, guided by a Steering Committee on Bioethics. The Council's Convention on Biomedicine and Human Rights was opened for signatures in 1997 and went into force in 1998. As of March 2008 it had been signed or ratified by 34 countries. It explicitly prohibits inheritable genetic modification, somatic genetic modification for enhancement purposes, social sex selection, and the creation of human embryos solely for research purposes. The Convention is perhaps the single most well-developed intergovernmental agreement extant addressing the new human biotechnologies, banning human reproductive cloning through an Additional Protocol on the Prohibition of Cloning Human Beings, which went into force in 1998. European Union With 27 member states, the European Union and its constituent bodies play a major and growing role in European policy integration. Article 3 of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, entitled "Rights to the Integrity of the Person," prohibits human reproductive cloning, "eugenic practices, in particular those aiming at the selection of persons," and "making the human body and its parts as such a source of financial gain." Importantly, the EU disburses some $5 to 6 billion U.S. every seven years for biomedical and health-related research, and sets policies on the use of these funds. Under the current programme, which runs from 2007 to 2013, these funds cannot be used for research that involves human reproductive cloning, inheritable genetic modification, the creation of human embryos solely for research purposes, or the destruction of human embryos.

African Union The African Union (AU) is an intergovernmental organization consisting of most African nations. At its 1996 Assembly of Heads of State, the AU (then called the Organization of African Unity) approved a Resolution on Bioethics that affirmed "the inviolability of the human body and the genetic heritage of the human species" and called for "supervision of research facilities to obviate selective eugenic by-products, particularly those relating to sex considerations." World Health Organization The World Health Organization (WHO) and its governing body, the World Health Assembly, are specialized agencies of the United Nations that address issues of international public health. In 1997 the WHO called for a global ban on human reproductive cloning. In 1999 a Consultation on Ethical Issues in Genetics, Cloning and Biotechnology was held to help assess future directions for the WHO. The draft guidelines prepared as part of this consultation, Medical Genetics and Biotechnology: Implications for Public Health, called for a global ban on inheritable genetic modification. In 2000 WHO Director-General Dr, Gro Harlem Brundtland reiterated opposition to human reproductive cloning. In September 2001 the WHO convened a meeting to review and assess "recent technical developments in medically assisted procreation and their ethical and social implications." The review covered, among other items, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, and cryopreservation of gametes and embryos. In February 2002 the WHO repeated its opposition to human reproductive cloning and cautioned against banning cloning techniques for medical research. In October 2002 the WHO established a Department of Ethics, Equity, Trade, and Human Rights to coordinate activities addressing bioethical issues. Group of Eight The Group of Eight (G-8) is an international forum for the governments of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. It convenes annual summits to consider issues of common concern, typically of an economic or military nature. At its June 1997 summit in Denver, Colorado, the G-8 called for a worldwide ban on human reproductive cloning. According to the Final Communique of the Denver Summit of the Eight, the leaders of the G-8 nations agreed "on the need for appropriate domestic measures and close international cooperation to prohibit the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer to create a child." The Consensus There appears to be broad support for applications intended to prevent or cure disease, but strong opposition to applications that involve selecting or modifying the genes of future generations for non-medical purposes. There is wide opposition as well as to human reproductive cloning and to non-medical genetic modification, including athletic “gene doping.” The one practice for which a consensus does not appear to be in the cards is medical research involving human embryos. Some intergovernmental institutions explicitly support this and others oppose it. Real opportunities exist for one or more respected intergovernmental institutions to mount a global initiative to clarify, codify and promote—indeed, to universalize—those human biotech policies about which broad agreement exists, while agreeing to disagree on the fewer number about which disagreements persist. Such an initiative would go a long way towards ensuring that these powerful new technologies are used in the best interests of all humanity. Cutting Edge Genetic Analyst Richard Hayes is executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society and can be found at This article draws on an appendix of an article published by Science Progress, and on data compiled on CGS's BioPolicyWiki.

For a full account of the state of policies among individual countries see The Quest for Global Consensus on Human Biotechnology in The Cutting Edge News Nov 24, 2008.